Syracuse struck first with a goal in the 8th minute when Sydney Brackett got behind the UConn defense and sunk the breakaway goal into the back of the net.
However, the Huskies didn’t take long to respond. Two minutes later, Elena Santos slotted a ball through to a wide-open Sophia Danyko-Kulchycky, who beat the keeper and put the ball into the empty net.
UConn nearly took the lead in the 34th minute when Kim Urbanek floated a shot towards the upper-90 but the shot clanged off the frame.
At the start of the second half, the Orange came out attack and nearly struck twice. One shot beat goalkeeper Randi Palacios, but Heidi Druehl cleared the ball on the goal line. Not long after, Syracuse sent a ball off the post and failed to jump on the rebound.
The cracks in the Huskies’ defense finally burst in the 64th minute when they gave up the lead off the head of Kate Hostage.
While UConn put pressure on the Orange backline, the Huskies didn’t put any dangerous chances on net to potentially tie the game after falling behind.
Defensive Struggles Re-Appear
UConn’s defense struggled in the season opener against Northeastern with communication and organization. After allowing an early goal against Syracuse, the back line firmed up and didn’t allow the Orange many good looks for the rest of the first half.
However, the script flipped rather quickly in the second half as the Orange controlled possession and nearly scored a few goals in the first 15 minutes of the second period. Head coach Margaret Rodriguez wasn’t happy with her defenders after the game.
“We decided to play around with it in back instead of clearing us out of pressure,” Rodriguez said. “Bottom line is all we needed to do is dump a couple of balls into their half and get the attack going but we struggled to clear the ball and struggled to clear pressure.”
Depth has been and issue through the first two games for UConn. Rodriguez has used the same 15 players in both games and doesn’t appear to be dipping into the bench beyond those four players.
“We have a lot of talent out here. We’re not as deep as I’d like to be,” she said. “Our players are going to be serve a lot of minutes over the season so we need to manage that over the season.”
An issue that hampered UConn against Northeastern and bled into the Syracuse game was possession in the midfield. The Huskies struggled to keep the ball in the midfield and gave away too many turnovers.
However, that improved when Urbanek subbed in midway through the first half. The German was arguably UConn’s best player and she helped to settle the middle of the field with her distribution.
“This game just suits her really well,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot of space and room for her to get the ball and move around.”
Time to Recover
While dropping their first two games is far from ideal, UConn isn’t panicking yet. Against Syracuse, the Huskies flashed their potential — especially in the first half when the ball was mostly held in the Orange’s defensive third — but need to be more consistent with their play.
“We’re young and inexperienced and this gave us a little experience under our belt and it tested us,” Rodriguez said. “We have to find out what we’re made of and focus on the next game.”
UConn’s next game comes on Thursday, Aug 23 against CCSU. Rodriguez’s sister, Jen Prozzo, is an assistant on the Blue Devils staff.
“We need to take it to her,” laughed Rodriguez.