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UConn men’s soccer off to a hot start

The Huskies routed Yale 4-0 and have already scored more goals in the first five games than they did during the spring season in 2021.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The first week of fall 2021 action for the UConn men’s soccer team saw showed signs of a rebirth, even if it didn’t show up in the results column. Week two proved that cautious optimism was more than warranted as the Huskies improved to 4-1 on the year with victories over Monmouth and Yale.

On Saturday, Sept. 11, UConn topped Monmouth 1-0 in a double overtime thriller that saw sophomore Okiem Chime net the game-winner at the death.

In the 106th minute, Chime followed up a stellar free kick from sophomore Moussa Wade, and buried the ball in the back of the net after the Hawks keeper parried the shot to his left. Chime registered four shots on the game, three on goal. Overall, the Huskies outshot Monmouth 23-9 but struggled to convert their chances. Freshman Mateo Leveque logged five shots of his own, while Wade and senior Dominic Laws chipped in seven and three shots, respectively.

Despite all of the attacking prowess, the unsung hero of the game was goalkeeper Jahmali White, who made a crucial diving save in the 72nd minute. White logged five saves and picked up his second clean sheet of the season.

Last-minute heroics are hard to top but UConn somehow did it on Tuesday, Sept. 14, when the Huskies hosted Yale for Nutmeg State supremacy. UConn pummeled Yale 4-0 in one of the program’s more convincing wins in recent memory. Senior transfer Dominic Laws, freshman Scott Testori, sophomore Jayden Reid and freshman Giancarlo Vaccaro scored for the Huskies.

Laws opened up his UConn account with the first goal in the 32nd minute, delivering a well-placed header off a whipped in ball from Reid. Testori would add to the lead five minutes later with his first collegiate goal, a clever hit off a Reid layoff from the left flank.

With UConn in control in the second half, Reid found himself on the receiving end of the fun in the 54th minute with Wade stepping into a Yale pass and slotting the ball to Reid for the assist on the counter. Vaccaro finished the Bulldogs off in the 80th minute with Reid and fellow sophomore Ben Awashie linking the attack.

It was, for all intents and purposes, a perfect game for UConn, and a masterclass from Reid. But it didn’t always look that way; UConn looked sluggish and aimless the first 15 minutes, stymied by Yale’s high line and 4-4-2 block. Waite even had to snuff out a mis-touch from captain Ahdan Tait in the 11th minute.

It’s hard to point out a single player that didn’t deliver what looked like their best game in a Husky uniform. Once Laws headed in that first goal, UConn was in control and incisive, while composed and organized enough in the back.

Yale had no chance of mounting any serious attack; the Huskies jumped on any loose touch, were quick to recover on counters, and always had options to pass out of danger. It was the type of UConn dominance that was commonplace earlier this decade.

The emergence of Chime, Reid, Wade and Laws up top, with Leveque pulling the strings, offers a tantalizing glimpse of multiple attacking options the Huskies can trot out. Case in point; nine players have already logged a point this season. Waite, meanwhile, already has three shutouts to his name. And credit to Ray Reid for expanding the team’s depth by using nine substitutions vs. Yale.

We’ve gone eight paragraphs without mention of Felix Metzler, UConn’s preseason All-Big East third team selection. After sitting out the first three games with an unknown injury, Metzler appeared for the first time this season in the second half and looked unbothered by whatever was plaguing him. Inserting him into the middle with Leveque gives UConn another metronome to dictate the tempo.

The two wins look even better considering Monmouth was an NCAA Tournament team last year, advancing to the second round before falling to Pittsburgh 6-1. Yale, meanwhile, was picked to win the Ivy League this year. UConn has given up one goal in five games — a set piece that can be chalked up to a lapse in concentration more than anything. They’ve poured in seven goals from six players, which is already more than they scored all spring season.

It’s easy to say after a 4-0 rout, but there was evident joy from the players out there. They shared the ball, defended vigorously, and celebrated their goals with a pent-up emotion indicative of the program’s recent struggles. If the season continues to go the way its heading, you can look back at this game as the turning point.

Next up for UConn is the conference opener against another Bulldog, an away match “In The Annapolis” vs. Butler, on Saturday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. ET. Butler is 1-3 on the young season.

Alumni Roundup

Cyle Larin can’t stop scoring. First he breaks USMNT hearts, then he scales the Canadian record books, with his 19th goal for country coming as an equalizer from the spot vs. Honduras.

Elsewhere, this is a great write-up on alum Nkosi Tafari (formerly Burgess), and his breakout year on and off the field.