The UConn Huskies men’s soccer team has long been the class of New England. However, after missing the last two NCAA tournaments, the Huskies have been unable to truly stake that claim. They’ll get a chance to today as UConn takes on Rhode Island at 1 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Men’s soccer tournament.
The game will be played at Rentschler Field, with Morrone Stadium unavailable due to the construction of the new soccer stadium. Kickoff was initially set for 7 p.m, but the evening threat of snow moved the game up.
“We’ve enjoyed our group big time this year. They’re a great group of guys. We’re excited to play a very good team in Rhode Island. Hopefully we get a few good days of preparation and we’re ready to go,” head coach Ray Reid said.
For UConn’s trio of senior tri-captains, this is the last stand. College players of any sport always tend to fight the hardest when the end is near, and you can bet the triumvirate wants to go out with a bang. Cliches aside, Abdou Mbacke Thiam, Jacob Hauser-Ramsey and Dylan Greenberg all collected various AAC All-Conference honors this season and will be relied on heavily tomorrow.
Mbacke Thiam, on the NCAA berth: “I’m so happy for the whole team. Looking back what we did the last 15 months, we deserve to be in,” Thiam said.
It will be a tough test for the Huskies who look to bounce back after the heartbreaking last-second loss to UCF in the AAC semifinals. Rhode Island and UConn were supposed to play back on Sep. 11, but the game was rained out and was not rescheduled. The Rams went 15-4 this year, beating George Mason 2-0 in the Atlantic-10 finals. They are paced by senior midfielder Dominik Richter out of Germany, who has nine goals and five assists on the year. Both teams spent the 2018 campaign in and out of the Top 25, and finished the regular season receiving votes in the United Soccer Coaches poll.
Head-to-head, the Huskies and Rams are 3-3 all time. When comparing schedules this year, Rhode Island beat Boston College 2-1 earlier this year, while the Huskies clipped the Eagles 3-2. A win against Rhody would give Reid 299 for his career at UConn.
“This is it. It’s a one game season now,” Greenberg said. “It’s what we’ve been waiting for all season. It’s a pleasure and a blessing.”
The winner of game will travel to Indiana to face the tournament’s No. 2 overall seed. UConn lost to the Hoosiers on Sep. 2 in a tight 1-0 match.