Coming off of a two-loss road trip, including a double overtime loss to No.1 Notre Dame, the University of Connecticut men’s soccer team bounced back in a big way at home Saturday night. Fueled by a fantastic second half offensive display, the Huskies earned a 5-1 win over the Loyola (Maryland) Greyhounds.
Thiam returns after two-game absence with two goals
Abdou Mbacke Thiam returned to the starting lineup for UConn, following a surprising absence in both games of the road trip, where the Huskies were held scoreless and could have used his clinical finishing.
“I think I am very important to this team, because I can help them a lot, and it is a good thing for me and for the team to win,” Thiam said. “I am so happy for my guys to win this game and I am so happy to have come back (to the starting lineup).”
Thiam definitely made sure his importance was felt Saturday night, scoring two goals on his return and making a huge impact on the game. One of his critical plays of the game was just two minutes after Loyola scored an equalizer off of a free kick. Thiam gathered the ball from Andrew Geres with his back to the goal, quickly spinning around his marker and making the subsequent finish look easy, blasting the ball past the keeper.
Thiam’s goal put the Huskies up 2-1 and they never looked back from there. The quick momentum swing from that goal likely took the wind out of any hope Loyola’s players had, and Thiam later put the nail in the coffin with a first-touch blast into the roof of the net in the 49th minute.
“He (Thiam) is a difference maker,” head coach Ray Reid said. “He stretches out the defense, and he gives Kwame (Awuah) and Sebastian (Brems) more room on the field. He’s a real difference maker.”
Geres playmaking ability on display
In just four games since missing the start of the season due to injury, Andrew Geres has made a huge impact on the Huskies’ performance, contributing with multiple assists and a few goals in the team’s two wins. In Saturday night’s game, Geres displayed his playmaking ability once more, adding two assists and a goal to his season tallies.
“I just go out there and I work my hardest for the team,” said Geres. “I just want us to win, even if I am not directly involved with most of what happens. But anytime we can win and I can help out, it makes me so happy.”
The first assist came in the 16th minute, as Geres dribbled the ball down the right wing, before crossing it to the far post to Alex Sanchez, who shot the ball at the goalie’s near post and scored.
The second assist came on the aforementioned goal by Thiam. On that play, Geres once again burned his defender on the right wing, before cutting inside and laying the ball off to Thiam.
“He’s another difference maker. Goose (Geres) is in some ways our MVP,” Reid said.
Geres finished off his big day with a curler around the keeper just 48 seconds into the second half on an assist by Sebastian Brems. That early second half goal would propel the team to a route of the Greyhounds and lock up the win for UConn.
Offensive Explosion in Second Half
Following a two-game road stretch, including the midweek double overtime game against Notre Dame, it was expected that UConn would be a little rusty. Despite the relatively slow and rusty first half, the Huskies offensive exploded early in the second to clinch the game by the hour mark.
“During halftime, we just reinforced some of the things we talked about earlier in the week,” Reid said. “Now I’m not making excuses, but they hadn’t played since last Saturday. We played last Saturday at Georgetown in 104 degree heat at one o’clock. There were no lights. Went to Notre Dame (on Tuesday) and played a hell of a game with them. I thought we recovered, but we played a little flat in the first half.”
With three second half goals to put away the Greyhounds, UConn finished the game with a 5-1 win that will definitely get the team back on the winning track. In fact, the five goals scored was the most the Huskies had scored in a single game since 2014, when they defeated Temple 5-0 in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament.
UConn can only hope this type of offensive production will continue as the conference schedule begins next Saturday night against Temple at Morrone.
Chris Hanna is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.