The No. 8 UConn men's soccer teams kicks off their 2014 season tonight with high expectations. After reaching the quarterfinals for three straight years, the Huskies head into their first three games of the season with the Final Four in mind.
"Our final goal is to win everything. Win the conference first, then the tournament and of course get to the Final Four" says standout midfielder Adria Beso Marco.
The road to the Final Four starts in Storrs tonight, with a huge early season test against No. 17 Coastal Carolina that is conveniently scheduled at the same time as the Huskies' football game versus BYU. The Chanticleers are the defending Big South champions, and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament before falling to California 1-0.
Coastal relied heavily on midfielder Pedro Ribeiro last season, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Union with the 15th pick of the MLS SuperDraft. Ribeiro's departure requires the Chanticleers to rely heavily on the skills of forward Ricky Garbanzo if they wish to repeat this season. Garbanzo is ranked 44th in Top Drawer Soccer's Top 100 Soccer Player Rankings, but if Sergio Campbell and the rest of the UConn defense play to their ability, they should be able to limit Garbanzo's chances to do damage.
The Huskies are back on the pitch at Morrone Stadium Monday night to face Stony Brook. The Seawolves are looking to bounce back from a rough 6-10-1 season that had them tied for last place in the America East. Midfielder Martin Giordano will be a key part of the Seawolves attack this season, hoping to build off a year in which he was second in the America East with six assists. Keeper Carlos Villa was fourth in the conference with a save percentage of .783, and a solid performance from him could temporarily provide the Huskies with some trouble.
UConn heads to Winston Salem, NC in their first game of a three game road trip for a challenging match up with Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons finished second in the ACC last season and advanced all the way to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals before falling to conference rival and eventual champion Notre Dame 4-2. The Demon Deacons are poised for another strong season and were picked to finish second in the ACC's Atlantic Division behind UConn's former American Athletic Conference foe Louisville.
Although the Huskies will surely be tested in these first three games of the season, three wins is not out of the question and would give them some serious momentum as they finish out their road trip against a superb Washington team and Seattle before returning home to face Iona.