This is supposed to be a bounce-back year for the UConn men's soccer team, but the season started with another bump in the road for the Huskies.
UConn normally dominates its opponents in both possession and shots, but the Huskies were unable to gain any sort of dominance over St. Francis (NY) in a season-opening scoreless draw at Morrone Stadium.
The Huskies had a couple great chances to score, especially on set pieces, but the scoring touch was not there. UConn scored three goals in two preseason matches against Rider and Syracuse last week.
Head coach Ray Reid pointed to the UConn's youth, but also a need to play better following the draw.
The biggest concern for the Huskies could be the loss of left back Dylan Greenberg, who suffered a collarbone injury early in the match.
Dan Madigan and Matt Zampini, contributors to The UConn Blog and the sports editors of The Daily Campus, joined Tim Fontenault, The UConn Blog's assistant manager, to discuss the opening match of the season.
Tim Fontenault: Obviously, this was not the start UConn was looking for. I have high hopes for this season, after seeing what some of the new additions are capable of, and one game isn't going to change my opinion. But UConn needs to come out on fire against a tough Quinnipiac side Monday.
And while the match itself was a draw, it feels like a loss because of the supposedly season-ending injury eight minutes in to Dylan Greenberg. That's a devastating loss for the Huskies, and we've already seen how the team might be affected. Elliott Ackroyd moved to the outside when Istvan Kanyo came in, but he doesn't have the same kind of pace and attacking mentality as Greenberg. This is going to be an interesting hurdle for UConn to overcome.
Matt Zampini: I agree with you about Greenberg, Tim. That's going to be a big loss with his ability to get up and down the flank so easily. Plus, he was primarily UConn's set piece taker if I remember correctly from last year. We saw last night UConn have 12 corner kicks but they couldn't convert any of them. But like you said, Kanyo came in and filled in nicely at center back last night.
A couple other things I noticed from the game. I really liked what I saw from Sebastian Brems, the midfield transfer from Southern. I thought he controlled the midfield all game. He was very active, getting the ball from all spots around the field and he switched the field when he had to.
It was my first time seeing the new striker Fredrick Jonnson so I'll have to see another game but he didn't impress me last night. I've heard a lot of good things about him coming into the season from some players on the team but he didn't show it to me last night. It seemed like he only touched the ball five times throughout the game and he wasn't very active up top. I'd like to see him come back and get the ball, lay it off to the midfielders and just be more active in general going forward.
Fontenault: Jonnson is a talented striker, but we have yet to see what he can really do. I agree that I would like to see him track back and collect the ball more. UConn has struggled to get the ball to him. The midfielders are more than capable of getting him the ball. Brems had a great game, as did Kwame Awuah and Abdou Thiam. There needs to be some “help me help you.” They need to work together with Jonnson to get the ball into attacking positions.
On Thiam, it looks like he is going to be taking the corner kicks this season. He got a little excited taking them last night, putting a little too much power on them. If he can settle down a little bit, he has Jonnson and towering freshman center back Simen Olafsen in the middle ready to strike.
You know who else had a great game in the midfield when he came in? The pride of Portland, Connecticut: Andrew Geres. He only played late in the second half and overtime, but I liked his combination play with Jake Nerwinski, and he was threatening going toward goal.
Dan Madigan: Losing Greenberg is a huge deal. I really like how he plays opposite of Jake Nerwinski, how it gives UConn good speed and skill on the outside. For now, Kanyo should be able to hold it together, but I'm not a huge fan of Ackroyd on the outside, mainly because he's exceptionally at winning headers in the middle. That being said, Ackroyd has the talent to hold it down at left back, it just certainly isn't an ideal scenario for Ray Reid and company.
As for Brems, I have to agree with Matt, he looked solid. It really seems like the team made it their goal to really run the offense through him, and then Nerwinski later in the second half. I'm hoping he will be creating a lot more opportunities for Jonnson, Awuah, and Nerwinski.
Jonnson didn't have a great game last night, but I've heard too many good things about him to back down on the fact that I think he's going to be a big contributor this season. I really love his size and strength, and I think he could really be a monster in the box since he can score in so many ways.
Geres did well in his time in the game, his speed really helped create some opportunities for Nerwinski like Tim said. I'd like to see more of him and Nick Zuniga against Quinnipiac. Having those two on the field at the same time gives the Huskies a lot of speed and little more motivation to be more aggressive offensively.
Zampini: Good point about Zuniga, Dan. I thought he looked greatly improved from last year and he looked stronger (his hair is growing on me). But he definitely changed the game when he came in. He was active and he created quality scoring chances for UConn. And Tim, Andy (I'm call him Andy because I have my whole life) definitely played well and impacted the game out on the wing. He looked like a more confident player and his first touch greatly improved from a year ago. The combinations with Nerwinski definitely caused trouble for St. Francis on that right flank.
I also just really like UConn's midfield this year. Between Brems, Cheikh Stephane Coly and Kwame Awuah, they should be able to control the pace of every game this year. All of them are such skilled and technical players and have they all have the ability to create chances for UConn this year.
Fontenault: Agreed on Zuniga and Coly, as well as the overall assessment of the midfield. By the sound of it, none of us are really too concerned about the overall scope of the team. Greenberg going down is awful, but Ackroyd and Kanyo will be fine in the back. The midfield is strong and deep. Jonnson is going to put the ball in the net when he gets his chance.
One game at a time with this team, though. Quinnipiac is going to be a tough match, and scoring is not going to be easy. UConn is going up against Triston Henry, the talented goalkeeper who transferred from Storrs to Hamden in the offseason.
Madigan: Yeah, this is just a little bump in the road. That being said, they need to come out strong against Quinnipiac. Can't go winless in two winnable games. That would kill their RPI, even this early.
I'm excited to see Henry on Monday for the Bobcats. I really think he could have been a difference maker for us last year but never got his shot. It'll be a good test the for the Huskies to see how they stack up against a quality keeper.