On Sunday, UConn Huskies men’s soccer lost to No. 2 Indiana 4-0 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, ending their 2018 campaign. The Huskies finished the season at 12-6-2, behind an outstanding run from senior tri-captains Jacob Hauser-Ramsey, Dylan Greenberg, and Abdou Mbacke Thiam.
Indiana, a soccer powerhouse, showed its quality from the start. They opened the scoring in the 16th minute off corner. From there on out, the Huskies were unable to muster a response, generating only three shots the entire game. The Hoosiers added to their lead in the 19th minute, and then piled on with two more in the second half.
While the 2018 season ended on a sour note, it was still an exciting campaign from start to finish. For one, the Huskies found themselves back in the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence. Ironically, the last time UConn was in the tournament, it was knocked out by Indiana in 2015, also in the second round.
But overall, the 2018 UConn men’s soccer team brought the drama during Morrone Stadium’s final season. All season, the Huskies had a penchant for last-minute rallies and game-winners, with seven games featuring goals in the 75th minute or later. This was capped off by a wild comeback versus Rhode Island in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. UConn was down 3-1 in the 70th minute, and went to win in extra time 4-3 behind a hat trick from freshman Ibrahima Diop.
It was also a memorable season for UConn’s three seniors.
Jacob Hauser-Ramsey was named Defensive Player of the Year, and was integral to UConn’s usually stout backline that allowed only 30 goals all year.
Star forward Abdou Mbacke Thiam was named to the All-AAC First Team. His 15 goals this year brought his tally to 46 on his storied UConn career, tied for fourth all-time at UConn. His seven assists also tied for the team lead in 2018, and he’s tied for sixth all-time in program history in points with 110.
And who can forget this beauty he scored earlier this year:
And was involved in this:
Dylan Greenberg was named second-team All-AAC. It didn't take long when watching a game this year to find Greenberg marauding down the sideline. While box-to-box midfielders is usually a term coined for players in the middle, Greenberg broke that mold for his ability to blanket an entire wing. He was a constant threat going forward, yet always was timely in his defensive stepping and was rarely out of position. Both him and Hauser-Ramsey logged two assists a piece this year.
Three other Huskies earned AAC regular season honors.
UConn also boasted several notable impact underclassmen that will hopefully take the reins next year. Freshman Felix Metzler out of Germany started all 20 games for the Huskies, either on the backline or as a defensive center mid. He was joined by sophomore Robin Lapert, a transfer from the College of Charleston (The 2017 DII National Champions) originally out of France, who paired with Hauser-Ramsey to form an imposing center-back duo. Both giants were a threat in the air going forward, netting six points between the two.
And up top there was freshman Ibrahima Diop, the hero of the Rhode Island game. While he only scored one regular season goal, Reid noted that he was playing out of position on the wing all year. When moved to his natural position up top in the tournament, he responded with that hat trick, marking a definitive torch-passing moment between Mbacke Thiam and Diop.
Redshirt junior Dayonn Harris, finally healthy, exploded onto the scene with five goals and seven assists, finishing second on the team in points. His slicing cuts and well-placed balls from the wing were the frequent source of Mbacke-Thiam’s goals this year.
In between the posts, UConn relied on sophomore Austin Aviza and freshman Gianluca Catalano. The latter started the first two games, then was not used again until late in the year when Aviza went down with injury. Aviza earned four shutouts on the year.
Other standouts this year include Blaise N’Gague, who I repeatedly have compared to Blaise Matuidi for his crunching tackles and heady play in the middle. There’s also redshirt freshman Cole Venner, who appeared in all 20 games but only started one, yet finished the year third on the team in points with seven.
Freshman Steffen Yeates was a calming presence in the middle, while sophomore Josh Burnett netted himself three goals on the year and improved as the season went on. And junior Munir Saleh was a solid backline contributor, and will leaned on heavily next year.
Looking ahead, while UConn’s three seniors will be sorely missed, there is ample firepower and leadership waiting in the wings. In addition, the Huskies recently signed four newcomers to the class of 2023; Marcus Peterkin, Josh Morgan, Jayden Reid and Wesley Leggett.