Men's Soccer: Tie versus SMU enough to get UConn to AAC Tourney

The Huskies took on SMU on Saturday at Morrone Stadium. Abode Thiam (#11) helped to lead UConn to the American Athletic Conference. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

Despite scoring the first goal in the match, the UConn Huskies (11-6-1, 3-4-1 American) tied SMU 1-1 in double overtime, securing the third seed in the American Athletic Conference tournament. In front of a packed Morrone Stadium, the Huskies honored their six seniors and ended their two game losing streak.

The first half of the game opened with an SMU strike that flew over the net, but following this early minute shot, the ball seemed to stay in the middle third of the field. UConn goal keeper and redshirt junior Scott Levene and SMU goal keeper Michael Nelson both made routine saves in the next ten minutes, as action was at a standstill until the 24th minute.

After a UConn corner was headed out by a Mustang defender, the ball found the foot of redshirt junior Andrew Geres, who was able to whip the ball into sophomore Simen Olafsen who perfectly headed it into the net. Olafsen was able to head the ball into the right inside netting of the goal, as his second goal of the season gave UConn the early 1-0 advantage.  

Following the goal, the rest of the first half mirrored the start of the game as play became less technical and more physical as the teams combined for only five shots in the first half. At the end of the first, UConn held a 4-2 corner advantage and the all-important 1-0 lead.

Eleven minutes into the second half, the Huskies had a fantastic chance to double up, but sophomore Abdou Mbacke Thiam shot bounced off of the left post and kept it a one score game. Capitalizing off of the miss, the Mustangs equalized a minute later as Garrett McLaughlin was able to even the game from a yard away.

After the equalizing goal, SMU was controlling the pace of play and dominating the possession of the ball as they looked like the desperate team needing a win. Neither team was able to find the late winner as the game became very physical and headed into overtime. In the first overtime period, neither team had a quality chance as SMU started putting ten and 11 players behind the ball.

In double overtime, with less than two minutes to go in the match, senior-tri captain Kwame Awuah found himself in a one-on-one situation with the keeper, but was stonewalled as the goalie made a great save.  In what was the best chance in the final two overtimes, UConn was unable to put away the winner as both teams ended up with one point and a tie. Neither the Huskies nor the Mustangs looked sharp in the second half as Coach Ray Reid emphasized defense over offense in the two overtimes periods and said, “We knew we just needed a draw, we got to overtime, and we tightened it up. We were just thinking, let’s get on down to Florida.”

Although a tie seems like a disappointment, it booked them a ticket to the AAC tournament against the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes in the semifinals. Both senior captains, Jake Nerwinski and Kwame Awuah were pleased with the effort and results as they both knew a draw was sufficient for them today. Awuah said that coming into the week, they knew what they had to do.

“We knew it was do or die for us and we had to get the result… I wish we would have gotten the three points but as long as we are, that’s what matters,” Awuah said.

Reed was disappointed with the finish but was pleased that his squad is moving on as he said, “I though the guys played well and played hard. We have to finish chances; we had eight in the second half. The guys played hard, we played hard and we got done what we needed to get done.” The UConn game will be this Friday at 4:30 p.m., while the other semifinals UCF and the host-school, USF will square off, with the winners of both matches advancing to the championship game at noon on Sunday November 13th.


Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at matthew.kren@uconn.edu.