A complete 90 minutes remains tantalizingly out of reach for the UConn men’s soccer team. The Huskies tied Dartmouth 2-2 on Tuesday night and fell to USF on Friday 2-1. The struggling squad looked the better side at times in both games, but mental lapses kept the results within reach. UConn is now 3-5-1 on the season.
The Ivy League Curse of 2019 reared its ugly head again on Tuesday after UConn gave up a 2-0 lead in the second half to tie Dartmouth 2-2. The Huskies outshot the Big Green 21-9 (6-2 on goal), but were unable to come up with a game winner in overtime. Jordan Hall picked up his team-leading ninth goal for UConn, while Bridgeport native Ahdan Tait added his first in a Husky uniform.
UConn 2, Dartmouth 2
It was another excellent start for UConn. The ball consistently found itself in Dartmouth’s box, with crosses being pumped in from all angles. If UConn players had pulled the trigger earlier a few times, or if not for some timely goalkeeping from Dartmouth, the lead could have been two or three at the break.
The Huskies turned in its best play of the season around the 33rd minute, when sophomore Felix Metzler’s cross found Hall’s head to put the Huskies up 1-0. It was perhaps the longest string of possession UConn had all season, with virtually every player touching the ball before the goal.
It was a glimpse of UConn soccer realized; short, quick combinations around the field that opened up space and put the right players in advantageous spots. During the two or three minute sequence, it didn’t look like a single player took more than four touches on the ball. A breath of fresh air for the Huskies.
UConn doubled their lead in the 55th after Tait found the back of the net. Freshman Thomas Decottignies made a move down the sideline and slotted the ball back to Tait, whose deflected ball beat the Big Green keeper. A little lucky, sure, but you have to shoot to score. That’s Tait’s first goal of the year and Decottignies’ second assist.
Just when it seemed like the Huskies were about to run away with it, disaster struck. Dartmouth got one back in the 62nd minute off a nice turn and finish from Jordan Bailon. And less than a minute later, a Big Green run down the left flank produced a cross that found the no mans land between UConn’s center backs and Tiger Graham slotted it home to knot the score. A shell-shocked UConn kept pressing, but was unable to find a game-winner in regulation, despite Hall hitting a post with about two minutes left.
It was all UConn in the first overtime period, but the Huskies couldn’t capitalize. The shooting gallery continued in the second 10 minute overtime, with the best chance coming from Hall just barely missing another Decottignies cross. Ultimately, fatigue kept a game winner at bay, and the game ended in a tie.
The Huskies opened American Athletic Conference play on Friday with a tough loss down in Tampa against the Bulls. Redshirt senior Dayonn Harris equalized for UConn with his first goal of the season, but the Bulls found a game winner late to pull away.
USF 2, UConn 1
UConn looked sharper in this game springing attacks on counters. But USF took the lead in the 17th minute off a corner. Sophomore Gianluca Catalano made an outstanding kick save on the initial attempt, but the rebound was put back into the mixer and the Bulls were able to somewhat questionably finish it. It appeared from the stream a UConn player had saved the ball off the line, but it was called a goal anyway. No UConn players protested the call, so it was probably the angle.
While USF held the shots on goal advantage 6-2, UConn on the whole looked much more composed on the ball, and asked a lot more questions on attack. The game was definitely there for taking after Harris tied things up in the 61st minute, cleaning up after freshman Ben Awashie with a stellar finish. But UConn ultimately succumbed to a late USF goal off a corner kick in the 81st minute. Set pieces doomed the Huskies once more.
- Metzler had a bomb in the first five minutes of the Dartmouth game would have been all over the interwebz if it went in. Overall, the tri-captain was much more assertive on offense these past two games, and it showed in the stat book; he’s now third on the team in points (four).
- Dayonn Harris continues to be ol’ reliable, and is tied for second in the nation in assists. His play on Friday earned him a spot on the AAC Honor roll this week. Jordan Hall, who is tied for second in the nation in goals (nine), has placed on the AAC honor roll three times this year.
- Louisville transfer Ziyad Fekri is just so smooth as a left fullback. He got the start these last two games, and took up a whole lot of real estate on that left flank. Whether it be low balls in or just smart passes out of tight spaces, he’s been instrumental in UConn’s improved flow of possession the last two games. It’s a luxury to have a fullback like that that can join the offense by linking up.
- They say 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in the sport, and that adage proved true today. But, some silver lining: the Big Green were picked to finish second in the Ivy League, ahead of both Columbia and Yale, who both handed UConn losses earlier in the year. It’s also worth noting that two of Dartmouth’s three losses came against opponents ranked at some point in the year (No. 1 Wake Forest and No. 18 New Hampshire).
- The good news is the team looks markedly better these last two games. The bad news is there’s not much to show from it in the results column. And the problem with dropping early season games against the likes Farleigh Dickinson and Yale is that it puts way too much emphasis on a late-season surge. So for as talented and exciting as UConn looked at times, the clock is ticking for the team to put it all together.
The Huskies return home Friday for a 7:00 p.m. game against Memphis.