In their first game without legendary head coach Ray Reid, the UConn men’s soccer team succumbed to #18 St. John’s yesterday, 2-0. The loss puts the Huskies at 1-2 on the season and 0-2 in Big East.
After a lethargic first ten minutes where the Huskies were pinned by the pressing Red Storm, UConn started to gather itself in possession. Bridgeport natives Ahdan Tait and Djimon Johnson fired off back-to-back shots while on a counter 15 minutes in and it looked like UConn had worked its way into the game. But just as the Huskies were finding their footing, the Red Storm struck off a counter of their own in the 19th minute. St. John’s Anthony Herbert found space on the left wing and delivered a low ball into Tani Oluwaseyi. After the first attempt was blocked, the first-team All-Big East striker slotted it home past UConn keeper Jahmali Waite for the score.
The Huskies managed three corners and two set pieces —all taken by freshman Kai Griese — but came away empty-handed. Toward the end of the half, Oluwaseyi went down hard after a tough challenge from UConn’s junior captain Felix Metzler. The star forward came back on for the second half, but was quickly subbed off and was last seen limping into the trainer's room.
As it turns out, the Johnnies didn’t need their lucky talisman to keep their momentum going. In the 56th minute, Jared Juleau fired a rocket from the upper-left corner of the box into the side netting. UConn failed to muster any chances of their own in the second half and was outshot 8-3 after the intermission.
For anyone thinking of pushing the panic button after their rough start, there is an important caveat to keep in mind. The Big East’s divisional divide, which was reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and grouped teams based on their geographical location, placed UConn in a pit of misery filled with the conference’s (and country’s) elite. They won’t get cracks at distant programs that are more on their talent level, like Xavier, Butler, or DePaul, and patience will need to be exercised at all times during this peculiar season.
With that being said, it’s clear this is a team in transition. There are young, talented pieces up and down the field, but they haven’t played as a cohesive unit. Moments of brilliance are swiftly followed by bone-headed giveaways and strings of crisp passes are undone by a heavy touch or miscommunication. Having the upperclassmen Metzler as the center back paired with Lapert robs the Huskies of a ball-dominant midfielder that can pick out a pass.
Experience is the best teacher though, and given the brutal Big East division UConn finds itself in, it will be a baptism by fire for this young, but talented roster.
Next up for the Huskies is a matchup with Seton Hall on Saturday, March 6, with kickoff set for 2 p.m. The Pirates come in with a 3-1 record and just took #5 Georgetown to overtime after dispatching this same St. John’s squad earlier in the season.