The UConn men’s soccer team bounced back in a big way Saturday night, knocking off Dartmouth College to improve to 3-2 on the season. Senior star Abdou Mbacke Thiam found the net in the 78th minute off a cross from redshirt junior Dayonn Harris, breaking the deadlock in a tight game that was lacking in real chances.
It was Mbacke Thiam’s second goal of the season and his 33rd goal of his UConn career. Overall, UConn outshot Dartmouth 11-3, with most of the chances coming in the second half.
The Huskies were looking to bounce back after dropping games to Notre Dame and Indiana, ranked 12th and 4th, respectively. Dartmouth, 0-2 heading into this match, dropped both of its games in the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic but was ranked 24th in the country in preseason polls.
The Big Green have recently made a name for themselves, having won four straight Ivy League championships. Their new coach Bo Oshoniyi even has a UConn connection; he was coached by Ray Reid at South Connecticut State University.
First half: It was another game between the boxes for both sides. UConn’s best chance came on a corner in the 38th minute, when a Dylan Greenberg corner found freshman Felix Metzler’s head, but the ball struck the post, denying the team’s first goal. Possession was even, although the Huskies were able to generate more chances. Dayonn Harris and Mbacke Thiam both found themselves in space on numerous occasions, but the final product was lacking.
Most of Dartmouth’s buildup was through the middle, but not many questions were asked. The spacious channels the Big Green found were snuffed out towards the end of the half, with tracking between UConn’s midfield spine improving as the game went on.
Reid must have laid into the team at the half as UConn came out much more aggressive after the break. This resulted in a game that was much more wide open, with chances coming from both sides. In fact, Dartmouth put the ball in the back of the net first, but offsides was called, which waved the goal off.
UConn’s attacking frenzy reached a fever pitch in around the 65th minute, with the Dartmouth goalkeeper forced to make numerous point-blank saves. UConn struck gold on a cross from Dayonn Harris, who was a threat the entire night. He streaked down the right side, putting in a perfect ball to the near post that was headed home by Mbacke Thiam.
The Huskies then withheld the expected Big Green surge, but most chances were snuffed out before anything serious had developed.
- Freshman Felix Metzler continues to impress. He looks smooth, calm, and composed out there. He always passes himself out of danger and shows a lot of promise going forward. In short, he does not play like a freshman.
- Mbacke Thiam does a great job of linking up with players, but sometimes he comes back too deep. He and Harris often found themselves in the same space..
- Speaking of Harris, his pace continues to put pressure on defenses. He does a great job of cutting into the middle. He is a threat to break down a defender 1v1 every time he touches the ball.
- Goalkeeper Austin Aviza got his second consecutive start, and was impressive between the posts. There was a two-minute stretch at the start of the second half where he made back-to-back saves that could have been dicey if he wasn’t aware. In addition, his distribution was swift and decisive.
Up next for the Huskies is a mid-week clash against local rivals Rhode Island, 7 p.m. at Morrone Stadium. The Rhodies are 5-0 on the young season.