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No. 20 UConn Men’s Soccer Battles to Draw on the Road Against No. 19 UCF

The Huskies earned a critical point on the road.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The Civil ConFLiCT that has gripped UConn football may soon be a multi-sport affair. The UConn men’s soccer team fought tooth-and-nail for a draw on Friday afternoon, tying the UCF Knights 0-0 down in Orlando. The Huskies extend their unbeaten streak to seven games, and improve to 7-2-2 and 2-0-2 in the American Athletic Conference.

It was a physical, defensive match fought between the two top teams in the AAC. With the tie, the Huskies stay one point ahead for first in the conference.

The first half consisted of both teams feeling each other out, hesitant to go for broke. UConn and UCF had their share of possession, but struggled to move the ball into dangerous areas. Toward the end of the first half, UConn assist leader Dayonn Harris picked up an ankle injury off a nasty tackle.

In the second half, UConn remained well organized, especially in the back. It was an immensely physical game, with several sliding challenges that found man first, then ball. It got so bad at one point Reid had to dress down the fourth official, yelling “if you controlled the match earlier this wouldn’t have happened! Use your freaking whistle!”

As regulation neared its end, UConn had its best chance, as Josh Burnett collected a ball on the wing with some space. A touch underneath his feet slowed his momentum, and the UCF goalkeeper was able to cut off the angle and deny UConn a game winner.

For the last ten minutes of regulation and all of overtime, fatigue had started to set in thanks to the hot Florida sun. UConn struggled to put passes together or initiate counters off UCF turnovers. UConn’s best chance in the overtime came in the 100th minute, when freshman Ibrahima Diop stripped a UCF defender and went in on goal. A quick recovery from UCF’s center backs slowed Diop, who failed to see a streaking Abdou Mbacke Thiam in the middle. A simple slot to him would have put Mbacke Thiam in on goal.

Notes

  • While the Knights outshot UConn 19-11, it doesn’t tell the whole tape. Many of UCF’s chances came from outside the box, and barely posed a threat to goalkeeper Austin Aviza. UConn was sticking to its gameplan script, and was content to let UCF fire away from 20 plus yards out. As the announcers noted, UConn walked away from this game with the better chances.
  • Give the UConn backline credit, especially Jacob Hauser-Ramsey and Dylan Greenberg for staying organized the entire game. UCF has netted 30 goals on the year, and boasts a prolific attack led by Cal Jennings, a probable MLS draft pick who has 14 goals of his own this year. While he broke free a few times and flashed his dangerous left foot, Jennings and his man-bun was unable to complete his Gareth Bale impression.
  • UConn was clearly content to let UCF knock it around the back, but pounced on any service into Jennings. By tactically sitting behind the ball, UCF’s talisman had to come back and get the ball, putting him out of dangerous situations. This frustrated UCF to the tune of 18 fouls to UConn’s six. Several of the challenges were rough, but that’s just part of the ConFLiCT.
  • Former US Men’s national team player Heath Pearce, who co-commentated the game on ESPNU, sang the praises of sophomore Robin Lapert, who Ray Reid had called “the unsung hero” of the team. He snuffed out several breakdowns and was solid in distribution.
  • The Huskies are currently ranked in four polls – TopDrawerSoccer (12), United Soccer Coaches (20), Soccer America (21) and College Soccer News (28)

Next up on the UConn men’s soccer schedule is a home tilt vs. the Boston College Eagles on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at Morrone Stadium. Four of the last five games for UConn will be at home, where the Huskies have a 6-0-1 record.