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Men's soccer looks to get back on track heading into AAC play

After falling to 2-4-1 on the season, the UConn men's soccer team looks start off strong in the AAC against defending conference champ USF and Memphis.

Defender Jakob Nerwinski has scored one goal this season
Defender Jakob Nerwinski has scored one goal this season

After the Huskies dropped to 1-2 on the year after a stunning overtime loss to Wake Forest, the UConn men's soccer team dug themselves into a hole as they headed into a critical four game stretch against Washington, Seattle, Iona, and St. Johns. Unfortunately, the Huskies dropped games the first and last games of this four game stretch 3-1 to both No. 10 Washington and St. Johns.  After the Washington game, they handily defeated Seattle University 3-1 and played Iona to a draw at home, bringing their current record to 2-4-1.

Here are a few pros and cons from UConn's last four games:

Pros:

More offensive production

Although superstar Cyle Larin has not scored since 7th minute of the Washington game Sept. 12, other players have started to become more effective on the offensive end, largely due to improved team chemistry. Adria Beso Marco, who went scoreless for 35 straight games, has scored in two of his last three games while still serving as a key distributor for the offense. Sophomore Ethan Vanacore-Decker is also making strides on recovering from an injury suffered last season. He has played significant minutes thus far, scoring two goals, but head coach Ray Reid believes the best is yet to come.

"Ethan's a key guy. We have to get him going," Reid said. "He's got a lot of potential, and we're just scratching the tip of it right now. "

Once Vanacore-Decker returns to form, him and Larin could create a two-headed monster that could transform the Huskies into an offensive juggernaut. As long as Beso Marco and Kwame Awuah continue their stellar passing, look for Decker, Larin, and Nick Zuniga, who has been aggressive and been in great form as of late, to continue to get great looks.

Jacob Wagmeister

With the exception of the 3-1 loss to St. John's, Wagmeister has been outstanding as of late. The redshirt junior made a career high seven saves against a chippy Iona team to keep the game tied at 1. He was named the AAC Goalkeeper of the Week for his performance, and has emerged as a leader and reliable player to help guide the young Huskies as they enter conference play.

Cons

The defense (still)

Although the Huskies managed to earn a 3-1 win against a solid Seattle squad, the Husky defense has still not been nearly as good as it was last season. So far this season, they have allowed three goals in three games, something they did not do once in 2013.  As the season progresses, look for better play from Sergio Campbell and the continued development of Jakob Nerwinski and Dylan Greenberg to help return the UConn defense back to its normal stellar self.

Youth

Simply put, this team is a very young team with a lot of raw talent. So far, with a lot of young players in new positions, chemistry has come slowly but surely. Despite some frustrating performances, this team has continued to improve each and every game. Once this team begins to really gel, the Huskies have the talent to challenge for an AAC title and make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

The next three:


On Saturday night, UConn enters conference play against the defending AAC tournament champions, USF. Last season, the Bulls defeated UConn on penalty kicks 6-5 to win the inaugural AAC championship. USF heads into AAC play at 3-3 and are led by Lucas Baldin and Wesley Charpie. Baldin leads the team with three goals, while Charpie leads both the team and the AAC as a whole with three assists. A win against the Bulls would provide a huge boost for the remainder of the season and set the tone for conference play as the Huskies look to win their first ever AAC championship.

Four days later, UConn takes on former Big East rival Providence at Morrone. The Friars are 5-2 on the season, dropping matches to Quinnipiac and Clemson. Despite facing less than stellar opponents, the Friars have managed to put up 17 goals in just seven games. Markus Naglestad and Mac Steeves lead the Providence attack, combining for nine of the 17 goals. This team could significantly test UConn's defense and will be a great way to gauge their improvement from the start of the season.

The Huskies get back into AAC play Oct. 10, when they travel to Tennessee to face Memphis. The Tigers boast a 4-2-1 record, including an impressive 4-0 upset over No. 15 St. Louis. Memphis has yet to lose at home this season, and in order for UConn to do so, they will need to try and contain Hector Cantele. Cantele has scored three goals, all in the Tiger's last two games against Lipscomb and Belmont and was named to the AAC Weekly Honor Roll for his offensive explosion. Look for UConn to contain the freshman forward by playing him extremely physical , using their size to limit the 155 pound Cantele's touches.

With two conference games in this three game stretch, it is safe to say that this is a crucial time for the Huskies. Should they win both conference games and get to 2-0 in the conference, they could well be on their way to a high seed in the AAC tournament and erase any doubts about this less than spectacular start. Regardless of the results, this team is slowly but surely improving and showing their potential to do serious damage in the remainder of the season.