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UConn men’s soccer shuts out Sacred Heart, 3-0

A strong all-around performance gives the Huskies their first shutout since October 2019.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Remember, remember the fifth of November in 2019? That was the last time the UConn men’s soccer team picked up a regular-season win. At least that was the case before until today when the Huskies christened Joseph J. Morrone Stadium by dispatching Sacred Heart University 3-0.

Sophomore Moussa Wade, junior Felix Metzler, and freshman Maxwell DeBodine scored for the Huskies while Jahmali Waite recorded a clean sheet in goal. It was UConn’s first shutout since October 12, 2019, when they blanked a now-defunct University of Cincinnati team.

Wade got it going with a tap-in in the 14th minute, converting a shot/pass on the left wing from fellow sophomore Ben Awashie. Metzler doubled the lead in the 58th minute, taking space ahead of him in the middle and firing an outside-of-the-foot cracker from 30 yards out.

UConn put the nail in the coffin in the 74th minute with possibly the prettiest team sequence of the entire game. Awashie found the ball in the middle of the park and sprayed a diagonal out wide right to Michigan transfer Sosa Emovon, who played an early ball low across. The weight of the pass was just slightly behind a streaking DeBodine, but the freshman was able to pump the brakes just enough to get his leg around and tap it home. It was a very pretty counter, which was something that stalled out in the first half too often but was good to see in its completion later in the game.

The Huskies outshot Sacred Heart 10-4, while senior goalkeeper Jahmali Waite was only called on to make two saves. The only real scare for the Farleigh Dickinson transfer came on a shaky in-swinging corner in the first half.

Quick Hitters

  • Even though he didn’t get any stats for it, freshman Giancarlo Vaccaro would be a sneaky pick for man of the match. The Ontario, Canada native showed off a deft touch and pace as a wingback going forward. He was so effective in tight spaces and taking on defenders that head coach Ray Reid moved him into the middle for the last 10 minutes of the game. You could almost trace Reid’s thinking: “This kid impacts the game every time he touches the ball. Let’s get him into better spots.” Vaccaro comes from the Vaughn Soccer Club, the same program that UConn alums Dayonn Harris and Munir Saleh hail from. Here’s hoping that pipeline keeps getting mined.
  • Don’t jump to too many conclusions after this one. Metzler and Lapert were their solid selves but the Huskies’ midfield link-up play left a lot to be desired. Sacred Heart didn’t offer much resistance, however, and threats only really came from set-pieces or moments of brilliance from Segundo Navarro. A shutout is always a good way to start a season, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • One complaint: Ray Reid continues to treat substitutions like they’re holographic Charizards. Emovon and DeBodine were the only subs until about 80 minutes left, then voila — they set up the third goal. Fresh legs and depth are integral to the college game, especially in the cold and definitely during a season opener amid a PANDEMIC. There may not be many other chances this year to build your roster depth. The game was wide open the last half hour, why not empty your bench and see what you have? That sort of opportunity may be just what a player on the bench needs to break through or find their form. Now, who knows what injuries or knocks the Huskies were dealing with. Of course, this is nitpicking after a fine result, but what’s more important, potentially risking shutout or strengthening your squad’s depth for the long haul?

Hopping off the pulpit for now. UConn is back in action on Saturday, Feb. 27 when they’ll kick off their Big East slate with a home match against the Providence Friars.