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First place Huskies look to win AAC regular season title versus USF

The Huskies have four straight since a 4-0 loss to Syracuse to climb to the top of the AAC standings and are a game away from their first AAC regular season title.

Sergio Campbell (left), Jakob Nerwinski (center), and Cheikh Stephane Coly (right) celebrate a goal
Sergio Campbell (left), Jakob Nerwinski (center), and Cheikh Stephane Coly (right) celebrate a goal
Stephen Slade

Since a devastating 4-0 loss to No. 2 Syracuse on Oct. 14, the UConn men's soccer team has finally played like the team that was ranked No. 8 in the country to start the season. Since the Syracuse loss, the Huskies have gone 4-0 to raise their overall record to 8-6-2. With their wins over UCF, Temple, and No. 24 SMU, UConn stands atop the American Athletic Conference rankings with 5-1-1 record, and have a chance at capturing the program's first AAC regular season title with a win over No. 25 USF Saturday night.

The team's 3-1 win over Temple gave long time head coach Ray Reid his 400th career victory, becoming one of just 34 coaches to achieve the milestone. Reid won 146 games at his alma mater, Southern Connecticut, before taking over for the Huskies in 1997, where he has now won 256 games for a total of 402 after the UConn's wins over SMU and Yale. Since then, Reid has led UConn to the NCAA tournament in 16 consecutive seasons, and after a slow start, has the Huskies headed in the right direction to do so once again.

As the Huskies head into their final regular season game, here's a look at what has gone well and what could be improved heading into USF and the AAC tournament.

Pros:

Cyle Larin

After the Brampton, Ontario native was unavailable for the Syracuse game due to his appearance for the Canadian men's national team, Larin has managed to once again be the offensive juggernaut he was during his breakout freshman season. Since the Syracuse game, Larin has scored three goals in three games, two of which came in UConn's 3-1 victory over Temple. Larin sat out the Huskies' 1-0 double overtime win over Yale as a precaution, as he slightly injured his ankle toward the end of UConn's 2-1 win over No. 24 SMU. Nonetheless, head coach Ray Reid says he will be ready to go to help try and lead the Huskies to an AAC regular season title.

Scotty Shutout

Since entering the starting eleven Oct. 4 against Memphis, redshirt freshman Scott Levene has done a solid job amongst a rapidly improving defense, posting five shutouts in just seven games. Levene has only allowed more than one goal in a game once (four against Syracuse) and has allowed just two goals during the Huskies' four game win streak.

Coming Together

After a rough start to their season against a very hard schedule, the team has come together and rebounded nicely, winning six of their last eight since the heartbreaking overtime loss to USF.  Perhaps the best example of this improved teamwork and cohesiveness was seen Tuesday, when the Huskies defeated Yale 1-0 in double overtime. Despite outshooting the Bulldogs 23-5, UConn simply could not get a goal until the beginning of the second overtime, when Adria Beso Marco notched his first ever goal at Morrone Stadium to give the Huskies the victory. After the game, which was their first overtime win of the year, Coach Reid praised his team for their persistence through this tough stretch.

Cons:

Offensive help

With star Cyle Larin back in the lineup, the Huskies are still a dangerous offensive team, but one that is certainly lacking depth behind their Canadian star due to injuries. Other than Ethan Vanacore-Decker, who is second on the team with four goals,  the Huskies have not had another consistent scoring threat this season, largely due to the absence of senior Allando Matheson. Matheson primarily came off the bench to give the Huskies a fresh and creative threat late in games, but has been sidelined due to injury. However, the Huskies certainly have plenty of competent replacements. Should Jakob Nerwinski, Beso, or Kwame Awuah step up and emerge as a scorer, UConn could be a very prolific offensive team heading into the AAC tournament.

Defensive miscues

Make no mistake, the UConn defense has been solid as of late, but on the season, the Huskies have surrendered too many goals on defensive lapses and miscommunications. As the season gets deeper and the games become more and more important, look to Sergio Campbell to continue his strong leadership and help limit these critical errors.

Saturday night versus No. 25 USF

As mentioned earlier, a win versus the Bulls will give the Huskies their first ever AAC regular season title and the number one seed in the conference tournament. UConn looks to avenge their catastrophic 1-0 overtime loss to USF on Sept. 27, where Edwin Moalosi scored an easy game winner thanks to a defensive miscommunication. However, with a new goalkeeper in Levene and a surging offense led by Larin, the Huskies have a very good chance of upsetting the Bulls on the road. UConn will need to play one of their best games of the season in order to secure the 13th regular season title in program history, and with the way the team has played as of late, a win is certainly achievable. Regardless of the outcome of the game, the Huskies have clinched a home quarterfinal game for the AAC tournament, which will be on November 8.