Men’s Soccer: Disappointing draw with Cincinnati a tale of two halves

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)

If soccer games were only 45 minutes, the UConn men’s soccer team would have had a golden night Wednesday against division rival Cincinnati. In the first half, the Huskies thoroughly dominated ball possession, created multiple excellent chances and got a much-needed goal in the 27th minute off a Abdou Thiam penalty kick. They went into the halftime break looking like a completely different team than the one that fell 1-0 to lowly Memphis last Saturday night.

The second half was a different story.

The Bearcats came out and grabbed control of possession, slowing a UConn offense that had been potent earlier in the game. In the 64th minute, Cincinnati found the equalizer on an Alejandro Garcia header. After that, the game was uneventful, and other than a few deadly chances for the Huskies late in a second overtime, the game meandered to a 1-1 draw after 110 minutes.

“It’s tough. We’re trying to stay positive,” UConn defender Elliot Ackroyd said after the game. 

The draw helped coach Ray Reid avoid what would have been his first four-game losing streak as UConn coach, but it can’t be the result that Reid wanted. The Huskies are now 0-2-1 in American Athletic Conference play, a very slow start that could haunt them as the season progresses.

When asked if and why the team’s aggressive offensive mentality changed Wednesday after they found their first goal, Ackroyd was unsure.

“I don’t think that it’s on purpose,” Ackroyd said. “Maybe it’s just because we’re young. We just need to learn, get that experience.”

Coach Reid did not agree with Ackroyd’s assertation, offering a stern rebuttal.

“You can print this. Elliot needs to worry about his game and not coach the team. Youth and experience didn’t give up the goal.”

The UConn attack undeniably lost its fuel as the game went on. After outshooting Cincinnati 9-2 in the first half, the Bearcats and Huskies both registered seven shots over the remaining 65 minutes. UConn continued to generate corner kicks, but other than a stunning save by Cincinnati goalkeeper Pedro Diaz to deny Kwame Awuah the winner in the 106th minute, they didn’t really threaten to score.

When asked by a reporter if the Huskies’ overtime struggles (four draws and one loss) had anything to do with the team’s fitness level, Reid let his frustration show.

“I don’t want to be a jerk, but let me ask you, you watched the whole game: did those guys look unfit to you?” 

The reporter admitted that the Huskies did not look unfit, but Reid relented. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to play 110 minutes out there? They’re fit,” he continued. “Just go out and run for two hours, I’ll come back and get you, and you’ll tell me about fitness.”

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for UConn in the coming days. Next up, they’ll play conference leader SMU in Texas on only three days’ rest. After that, they have an important nonconference road clash against Louisville.

“We haven’t even watched SMU, we’ll watch them tomorrow,” Reid said. “The game plan is to get one more goal than them.”

Kickoff between UConn and SMU is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Oct. 10.


Tyler Keating is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus, covering UConn women's soccer. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu.