After a shocking 2-4-1 start to their season, the UConn men's soccer team managed to split their first two American Athletic Conference games with a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Southern Florida and a 1-0 win at Memphis. The Huskies home matchup versus Providence was postponed due to rain, with no makeup date announced yet.
Despite the loss to USF, their performance against the Bulls was easily the best the Huskies have turned in all season. Goalkeeper Jacob Wagmeister and the defense did a tremendous job limiting USF's ability to create plays in open space, and played solid defense on corner kicks. The offense looked as if it was finally starting to gel. Even though there were no goals, spectacular passes from Kwame Awuah and Adria Beso Marco created plenty of opportunities for forwards Cyle Larin and Ethan Vanacore Decker to make plays.
"Everything is getting better and better. I think this was our best game so far," Decker said of the performance vs USF. "Just a couple of missed chances, a few didn't go in."
After 90 scoreless minutes, the game headed into overtime. Just over a minute into the game, USF Lucas Baldin played a ball into the box that Wagmeister came out and saved. He then distributed the ball to UConn defender Elliott Ackroyd, who played the ball back to Wagmeister due to a miscommunication. After passing the ball back to Ackroyd, the defender frantically cleared the ball just out of the box to USF's Edwin Moalosi, who stepped up and fired the game winner on an open goal.
Despite the loss, which head coach Ray Reid described as "catastrophic," the Huskies were back in action on the road at Memphis. Freshman Dylan Greenberg's first career goal was the difference in their 1-0 victory. Greenberg took a pass, made a move on the corner of the box, and fired a shot in past the keeper to score the only goal of the game. For his score, Greenberg was named AAC Rookie of the Week. Goalkeeper Scott Levene, who started and got the shutout against the Tigers, was named AAC Goalkeeper of the Week.
On Wednesday, the Huskies head to Ohio to continue conference play against the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats boast 3-5-2 record overall, and are searching for their first win in the AAC this year after dropping back to back games to Temple and Tulsa. Look for the Huskies to continue to build off of their momentum and continue their recent solid play to grab their second conference win of 2014.
After Cincinnati, the Huskies return to Morrone Stadium for games against Tulsa (October 11) and Syracuse (October 14). The Golden Hurricanes (5-4-1 overall, 1-1 the American) are one of the AAC's top soccer teams, and have a two headed scoring monster in Ray Saari and Akell Barrett. Saari and Barrett have combined for half of Tulsa's 16 goals this season, and each has one assist. Neutralizing these scoring threats will be crucial if the Huskies want to secure another crucial win, but look for Sergio Campbell and the rest of the Huskies defense to be prepared for a battle at Morrone.
The Syracuse Orange have been a rival of the Huskies on the basketball court for years, and the former conference members will meet at Morrone in UConn's second to last conference game of the season. The Orange are currently ranked No.4 in the country, their highest ranking ever in program history. The Orange currently boast a 9-1-0 record overall and are 3-1-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, with their only loss coming to No. 6 Notre Dame. This game versus the Orange will be a huge test for the Huskies to see how much they have improved and come together since their 3-2 loss to then No. 17 Coastal Carolina at the beginning of the year.
This three game stretch is arguably the most critical span of the Huskies' season. If UConn can rack up two AAC wins heading into Syracuse, they will be in a great position to finish the rest of conference play strong and could finish with a top seed in the AAC Tournament at Morrone. A win over Syracuse would vault the Huskies back onto the national scene, signaling that the team has come to together and is beginning to play at the high level set at the beginning of the season.