The UConn men’s soccer team walked out of Memphis with a critical road victory Friday night, knocking off the Tigers 2-0. Redshirt junior Dayonn Harris and freshman Ibrahima Diop both netted for the Huskies, who improved to 5-2-1 on the season.
UConn was all over Memphis from the start, but were unable to convert on three early chances. The first half ended 0-0, with Memphis holding the edge in shots 6-4.
The second half was a different story. It started just a minute after the break, when Harris fired a beauty to the corner from the top of the box to put UConn up 1-0. Harris now has two goals on the season to go with four assists.
The rest of the second half remained UConn. The team displayed some tremendous link-up ability and dynamic play, mounting several offensive movements. While Memphis did have some dangerous free kicks into UConn’s box, they never threatened goalkeeper Austin Aviza. The stats may show that the shots ended evenly at 14-14, but UConn looked the more threatening side for the final portions of the game.
With Memphis pressing for an equalizer in the final seconds, freshman Steffen Yeates calmly played Diop into space with an open net. Diop walked the ball into the net as the UConn bench erupted. The easiest goal of Diop’s life also happened to be the first of his UConn career.
This ‘n That
Sophomore Aviza got the start once more, further cementing his place as the number one choice. He was credited with four saves.
This was the most dynamic UConn has looked all season. The Huskies moved the ball around the field quickly, linked up with each other consistently, and in general were fun to watch. The little flicks and one-two combos that had seemed to falter to start the season connected today, and it made UConn look tremendously dangerous going forward.
The defense deserves credit for its quick pressing to snuff out any counters on turnovers. So often with teams like UConn that like to build possession through one-two combinations and cut runs, a turnover can lead to a counter. Any Memphis counter last night was quickly met by a pressing Dylan Greenberg or Felix Metzler, who were able to fill the gaps in an instant. What’s more, they were then able to find feet and continue the UConn attack.
The triumvirate of Harris, Diop, and talisman Abdou Mbacke Thiam were especially potent in the attacking third. They seemed to have a step on every Memphis defender, and exploited their back line repeatedly.
A quick side-anecdote. I watched this game thanks to Memphis’ live stream with some friends of mine, all of which played in college. At first they casually would stop by my laptop and check out a few moments, and that was that. But the last 25 minutes, they were all crowded around the screen, watching UConn. The team just looked that good, and earned four new fans tonight.
Next up for the Huskies is a trip to Providence to take on the 4-4-1 Friars on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.