The UConn men’s soccer team was unable to conjure any postseason magic in 2019. Almost a year ago today, the Huskies dispatched Rhode Island in dramatic fashion in the NCAA tournament.
What a difference a year makes, as UConn lost to South Florida 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) tournament Saturday night. UConn finished the year 5-12-1, head coach Ray Reid’s first losing season ever — at UConn and in his career.
The Huskies actually out-shot the Bulls 11-5 Saturday night, but couldn’t equalize after the home team went up early in the second half. Tri-captain Dayonn Harris, in his last game in a Husky uniform, logged four shots on the game.
It was a season that started off with so much promise, with UConn cruising to 2-0 against two 2018 NCAA tournament teams and cracking the top 25. But it was all downhill from there thanks to a combination of injuries and underperformance against lesser-talented teams.
And it wasn’t just the losses, it was the way they lost. UConn had a flair for late-game heroics last year, but the shoe was on the other foot this year, with three overtime losses that all occurred within the first five minutes of free soccer.
On top of that, a mind-boggling NINE of the team’s losses came via goals in the second half. It wasn’t for lack of effort or talent, it was more random lapses of concentration that led to defensive breakdowns.
Rutgers transfer and senior Jordan Hall finished the season a team-high nine goals, despite missing the latter half of the season with a torn ACL. Harris paced the Huskies with nine assists, and finished second on the team with 13 points. For his UConn career, he tallied seven goals and 16 assists.
Despite the team’s early-season hiccups to Farleigh Dickinson and Columbia, you can’t help but wonder “what-if?” in regards to Hall’s injury. The team had some obvious flaws, but a lot those flaws can be masked by a goal-scoring machine.
Nevertheless, some Huskies still earned AAC postseason honors. Five were named to All-Conference teams, including Harris on the first team. Junior Robin Lapert and sophomore Felix Metzler garnered their second-straight appearances on the second team, while freshman Moussa Wade and Ben Awashie both were named to the All-Rookie team.
If there’s a silver lining to this season, its that only one of those five award winners graduate next year. There’s ample talent up and down the roster and Reid has a knack for restocking the cupboard with transfers and impact freshman.
Plus, you can’t discount the impact of playing home games a half hour away in Dillon Stadium. The Hartford Athletic stadium is no slouch, but it severely negated the impact of UConn’s revered Goal Patrol. And for players, home games don’t quite feel like home games when you have to hop on a bus. The good news is that the shiny new Morrone Stadium appears on track for a 2020 open, and UConn will go back to having the best home field advantage in the country.
In the meantime, we’ll keep an eye on the professional prospects of Harris and Hall. And speaking of professional prospects, former Husky star Abdou Mbacke-Thiam is playing a big role in Louisville City’s usual romp through the USL, logging four assists and three goals this year. You can catch him on ESPN2 on Sunday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m., as Lou City takes on the Real Monarchs as they try to nab three straight USL titles.