Three games into the season, the UConn men's soccer team has gotten off to an unexpectedly slow start, dropping two of their first three games. The Huskies blew a 2-0 lead to drop their home opener to No. 17 Coastal Carolina, and then proceeded to demolish Stony Brook 3-0. Last Friday, they lost 2-1 in overtime to a very talented Wake Forest. As a casual fan, it may seem like there is reason to worry. Head coach Ray Reid assures there is not.
"I have no doubts at all about the team. No doubts at all with this team. None," Reid said. "I'm being honest with you. We've got very good players, we've got very good coaches. You know what, we've taken on a tough schedule on the road, and we're going to plug through it and we're going to be fine."
Despite the rough start, there have been a lot of positives so far, and many of them will eventually outweigh the negatives. Here are a few of the pros and cons of UConn's first three games before they travel to the West Coast to face No. 10 Washington, Seattle University, and then return to Storrs to face Iona
Simply put, Larin has been absolutely magnificent so far this season. He has scored the first goal for the Huskies in all three of their games this season, and has simply overpowered defenders with his unique array of size, skill, and strength. His improving chemistry with fellow forward Ethan Vanacore-Decker is a sign that the Husky attack has potential to be even better than it has been already.
Wagmeister has handled the job of replacing superstar Andre Blake relatively well. Despite allowing five goals, Reid attributed many of the goals allowed to major defensive lapses. Reid has been very pleased with Wagmeister's play so far, and he certainly has the talent to become an elite goalkeeper in time. Look for him to improve tremendously as the season progresses and the defense improves.
The 3-0 win over Stony Brook
Stony Brook was a team that UConn should have blown out, and they did. This UConn is very young, and the eight underclassmen that start will need time to get gel and improve. Nonetheless, despite their youth, this team is extremely talented. Getting the first win out of the way has taken some pressure off and allowed the Huskies to bounce back from the blown lead against Coastal Carolina, taking a very good Wake Forest team down to the wire before eventually losing in overtime.
The second half
For some reason, the second half has mystified the Huskies so far this season. UConn has allowed four of their five goals this season in the second half or later, with three of those goals coming in one half when Ricky Garbanzo almost single handedly led Coastal Carolina's comeback. It has gotten better since the Coastal game, but is still an issue after Wake Forest scored their game winning goal less than four minutes into overtime.
Heading into the season, UConn's defense was supposed to be its strength. So far, it has been its biggest weakness. This defense has had numerous lapses so far, leaving Wagmeister one on one with opposing teams' forwards. Wagmeister has been able to make most of the saves so far, but it has been concerning as to how many open looks opposing teams are getting. That being said, look for Sergio Campbell and the rest of the Husky defense to step up and return to form as one of the top defenses in the country sooner rather than later.
The Games Ahead:
The Huskies' next two games will be some of the toughest of the season. The Huskies head to Washington to face the No. 10 Washington Huskies and the Seattle University Redhawks.
Washington was ranked as high as No. 4 in the NSCAA Top 25 poll this season before St. Mary's upset the Huskies with a 2-1 overtime win in Washington. Last season, UConn defeated Washington 1-0 in Storrs, and UConn plans on defeating them again Friday night by neutralizing Washington's main offensive threat, forward Darwin Jones.
Jones leads the team in goals, assists, and shots on goal. Marking him in UConn territory will be crucial in order to limit his chances around the goal. The Huskies will need to be careful to not be too physical, as Jones has buried both his penalty kicks this season.
The Huskies travel a few miles down the road to face Seattle University on Sunday. Like UConn, Seattle dropped out of the NSCAA Top 25 this week after their 4-1 loss to Washington. Look for Larin and Decker to terrorize Seattle's mediocre defense and get out to another early lead. The Redhawks are talented, but if the UConn offense continues to get out to a fast start, they will have a very tough time stopping Larin and company.
Five days later, the Huskies return to Morrone Stadium to take on Iona. The Gaels took on UConn last season in an exhibition, losing 4-0, but managed to turn in a decent season that included 10 wins and only three losses. Expect a similar result to last year for the Huskies, as they will likely be in midseason form after taking on four ranked teams in their first five games.
As conference play gets closer and closer, look for the Huskies to gain momentum and improve their weaknesses. This team is extremely talented, and has the potential to be great once things start to click. Be sure to follow @UConnMSOC and my personal account, @dmad1433, for updates.