Men's Soccer Notebook: Offensive explosion puts men’s soccer atop conference

Abdou Mbacke Thiam (#11) passes the ball to Kwame Awuah (#7) in the midst of a Cincinnati defender in a game on Saturday Oct. 8, 2016 at Joesph J. Morrone Stadium. The Huskies won 5-0. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

On a rainy Saturday night, the UConn Huskies men’s soccer team took on the Cincinnati Bearcats in a contest between two teams that were both undefeated in the American Athletic conference. The Huskies went into the game on an absolute tear, having won their last five games, and that was put on display again as they absolutely dominated the Bearcats in a 5-0 game to put themselves first in the conference.

Awuah and Nerwinski fuel the attack

Top to bottom, UConn is a squad full of players with the ability to make something out of nothing and turn a game in the team’s favor. This is especially true of the Huskies’ senior captains, Kwame Awuah and Jake Nerwinski, who did just that on Saturday night with fantastic performances on both ends of the pitch.

Awuah has done nearly everything on the offensive end for the Huskies this season, except find the back of the net. Awuah made sure that he could check that off the list with two impressive goals to finish off the Bearcats on Saturday night.

His first goal came early in the second half in the 52nd minute, as Awuah received a cross from Abdou Mbacke Thiam and beat Cincinnati goalkeeper Pedro Diaz with a composed finish that put the game out of reach at 3-0. The second tally of the game, and season, came just 14 minutes later as Nerwinski found Awuah with a through ball down the right wing. Awuah made his way past a defender into the box and buried his shot over the outstretched arm of Diaz.

“It was about time,” Awuah said. “The coaches have been making fun of me saying that maybe I’m just going to score when it matters, and I ended up scoring the third and fifth goals. We were up 3-0 already, but it always feels nice to get on the scoresheet and especially coming from Abdou (Thiam), he finally repaid me one.”

Nerwinski’s assist on the play was one of two on the game, and was his fourth assist on the year. He has really elevated his play this season and much of that is due to more experience with each game that passes. In particular, Nerwinski’s decision making on when to push forward from the right back position, and his hustle to track back on defense has been vital to the team’s success on both ends of the field.

“You just got to kind of read the game,” Nerwinski said. “Midfielders are always looking for that through ball. We have a kind of (connection), me and Kwame (Awuah). We know when I’m going to go (make a run) or when he’s going to go (make a run). And you know if it doesn’t work out, you just have to keep working back on defense. And I thought that the most important thing was that we got the shutout. That’s four games now we haven’t let up a goal and that’s huge.”

Huskies strong in second half as win streak grows to six

With the success over Cincinnati this weekend, the Huskies’ win streak improves to six games. UConn has outscored its opponents 15-2 in that span, with four shutouts. Despite the incredible stretch of play, the Huskies are still looking at the rest of the season with a game-to-game mindset.

“What we’re doing is taking it game by game,” said Nerwinski. “We’re not looking at the whole thing, we’re not looking at six straight wins. We’re looking at one-game seasons from now on.”

What has really been impressive during the winning streak is the team’s exceptional performance in the second half of games. In fact, UConn has outscored its opponents 14-1 in the second half of games throughout the season. In this particular game against Cincinnati, the team buried three second half goals to make sure the Bearcats had no chance of winning, closing out the game with an offensive explosion.

"I just thought we were in a good flow, a good rhythm,” head coach Ray Reid said. “We had great running in the box and could’ve had a couple other goals we didn’t get. The guys were very unselfish tonight, very fluid, and very dangerous.”

The attack was nearly unstoppable, but the defense was fantastic in the second half as well. Cincinnati only mustered up one shot on goal the entire game, which didn’t even come until the 83rd minute. The solid centerback pairing of Simen Olafsen and Jacob Hauser-Ramsey took away any openings that Cincinnati’s playmakers had, especially in the second half.

“Maybe we just get better as the game goes on,” Reid said.

Next up, the Huskies take on the Yale Bulldogs Tuesday, Oct. 11 in a tough non-conference matchup in hopes of reaching ten wins on the season.

Chris Hanna is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at