UConn basketball might have bested Syracuse on the recruiting trail earlier this month, but Syracuse just took some revenge on the soccer field. The men’s soccer team fell to Syracuse 1-0 tonight— conceding yet another set piece goal in the second half — to fall to 4-8-1 on the season. Sophomore keeper Gianluca Catalano, who was named AAC Goalkeeper of the Week yesterday, finished with six saves.
It was all Orange to start, with UConn’s backline and keeper Catalano under pressure from the jump. A lot of that pressure was due to a high Syracuse press that generated a lot of rushed possession and turnovers from UConn. That included one-point blank save from Catalano, and another save off the line off of a set piece.
They were eventually able to make some nice passes out of danger in their own end, but the counters off that pressure always seemed to be a step behind the connecting ball.
The Huskies did start to flash in the final five minutes of the half, stringing together some nice plays and controlling the tempo. It seemed that if that form could be replicated in the second half, they could steal some points from their old rival.
UConn came out in the second half with the same energy and possession it ended with. Things looked promising, but set piece defense once again reared its ugly head after a Syracuse corner found a near post header that beat Catalano. It was a well-placed header, but it didn’t appear the Huskies had put a knockdown player in front of the six-yard box. That usually clears away near-post threats.
The Huskies had a nice response a few minutes later to find Dayonn Harris in the box. It looked like the senior tri-captain was pulled down when receiving the service around Cuse’s penalty spot, but the officials swallowed their whistle — a common theme of the night for both teams.
As it usually does when refs let things play, the physicality escalated as the game pressed on. UConn was able to match the tempo, but repeatedly lacked that final unlocking pass. It certainly felt like a game where Jordan Hall’s presence was sorely missed; Harris found the ball in some dangerous spots, but he wasn’t able to link up effectively.
Catalano kept the team in the game. Syracuse had just hung four goals on top 20 North Carolina, and peppered UConn with chances. His effort between the sticks is a moral victory.
Syracuse Head Coach Ian McIntyre, who started his coaching career in the nutmeg state as an assistant for Fairfield, was effusive in his praise of UConn during an in-game media hit. His words echo the sentiment that even in down years, the Huskies will get every team’s best due to the program’s reputation and legacy.
“We know it’s a talented and dynamic UConn team, so that first goal is going to be important,” McIntyre said.
McIntyre had an interesting comment that could be applied to UConn’s struggles to convert possession into chances. When asked how to maintain shape on an attack, he noted that “there’s a tendency for players to watch the game when you’re attacking. You have to watch the buildup one step ahead.”
In other words, stagnancy and lack of player movement leads to a lot of negative or neutral passes. As a defense presses, those spaces become tighter and soon a team finds itself squeezed out of room, and they’re forced to defend in their own third. All of UConn’s best chances came on sustained buildup that swung side to side. So the potential is there, it just needs to be applied more consistently.
The Huskies head home now to take on UCF on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 7:00 p.m. The Knights are ranked No. 11 in the United Soccer Coaches poll.