Column: Lack of offense, consistency slows men's soccer team

UConn men's soccer junior defender Jacob Nerwinski dribbles the ball during the Huskies' game against Cincinnati at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Connecticut on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

It hasn’t quite been the year coach Ray Reid has expected for the UConn men soccer team. Heading into Wednesday’s game at Temple, the Huskies are 4-5-4 on the year.

Despite the underwhelming results, Reid has expressed positivity in his team’s maturation so far.

“We’ve played quite well this year. The guys have worked quite hard. But, sometimes, we have not seen tangible rewards for the work,” Reid said.

UConn made the NCAA Tournament every year from 2007 to 2013. The program took a step back last year when it failed to make the tournament for the first time in nine seasons, and this season looks to be more of the same. Particularly, the Huskies have noticeably struggled on the offensive end.

After the Huskies lost the number one pick in the MLS Draft, Cyle Larin, an offensive vacuum was to be expected. But this season has revealed a deeper problem.

UConn consistently struggles to put the ball in the net.

“We have got to start burying chances. It’s a very simple thing,” Reid said. “We’ve had plenty of chances, we’ve been dangerous. We just have to take advantage of it.”

In games where they’ve scored two or more goals, UConn has a perfect record. The downside: they’ve only broken that plateau three times on the season. The Huskies have been shutout six times already this season.

One bright spot for the Huskies has been forward Abdou Mbacke Thiam. The freshman from Senegal leads the team with four goals and was recently named the American Athletic Conference’s Rookie of the Week for the second time this year.

“He’s starting to get better. We know he’s very talented. He’s adjusted to being in America, he’s adjusted to having two games a week, four practices a week,” Reid said. “He’s making his improvements and we know he’s going to be a good one for us.”

Another one of UConn’s touted freshman has not played to the same level as Thiam. Frederick Johnsson has started seven games this season, generating just one goal and one assist. The future of this program hinges on the Huskies’ ability to score more goals and Johnsson represents a promising piece of that future.

“He’s a talented young man. He’s got a lot of attributes that we like. He can be very dangerous, but he has to play better. Getting shots on goal, finishing, fighting for loose balls. It has to become a consistent thing for him,” Reid said.

With four games left in what is shaping up to be a lost regular season, it would be easy to focus energy on the conference tournament. Yet, Reid is adamant in preserving the Huskies’ focus to their next opponent on the schedule.

UConn has a chance to end the season strong into the tournament and Reid is clear in his confidence that his team is stepping in the right direction.

“I sense that it’s coming with this group. Training has been great the last three weeks,” Reid said. “We have a young team, so we have to teach them how to train, about the environment and culture (at UConn).  The last three weeks, it’s been a lot better.”

UConn will be in action next on Wednesday night in Philadelphia when they take on Temple. The message from Reid was clear. Winning starts now.

“We have to be tough on the road mentally and physically. We gotta grind this thing out, be focused and resilient,” Reid said.


Elan-Paolo DeCarlo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at elan-paolo.decarlo@uconn.edu. He tweets @ElanDeCarlo.