After a bad loss against Louisville on Friday night, the University of Connecticut men’s soccer team battled adverse weather along with the Cornell Big Red on a windy Monday night.
Despite the conditions, UConn bounced back with a big win on the back of a huge second half and some excellent play by its substitutes. The game would finish with a score of 2-0 in favor of the Huskies, although it could have been much more, which is a good sign for the team coming off of the loss against Louisville.
During a long stretch of sloppy play early in the first half, the Huskies sailed many passes over the top and missed their targets. The wind was a factor, but the players couldn’t adjust to the circumstances early on. They picked up their effort later in the half, however, and started creating a number of great opportunities, including as many as four shots that sailed just high or wide.
“In the first half, we decided to try to attack them right away with our speed that we have up front,” said captain Kwame Awuah. “We noticed that they were dropping off, so even if the wind did catch the ball, they were able to clear. In the second half, we made the change so we would keep more possession and play through the lines as quick as possible because we were against the wind. We came out stronger and realized it was time to pick up the tempo.”
“I thought the guys started to play well the second part of the first half,” said head coach Ray Reid. “Andrew Geres was a great injection, Alex Sanchez was very good for us tonight. They just started to play better.”
The Huskies would really ramp up their energy in the second half, making sure they took take over the game. Sanchez set the tone early in the second, nearly scoring three minutes in on a screamer from about 25 yards out following a quick turn after receiving a pass from Awuah.
Awuah nearly opened the score sheet himself two minutes later, splitting two defenders tugging at his shirt and shooting a right-footed curler from the top of the box that was just saved by Cornell goalie Mitchell Meyer.
The Huskies had their best chance of the game in the 63rd minute, when a giveaway by Cornell put Alex Sanchez in a meadow of space. Sanchez laid the ball off to Nicolas Zuniga with only the goalie to beat, but Zuniga put it just wide of the goal.
Awuah earned the Huskies another free kick just outside the box after dribbling around a number of defenders and forcing a hand ball. The ensuing free kick by Awuah went off the post and a flurry of kicks at the ball resulted in a 67th minute goal by the substitute Geres, his first goal of the season and third of his career.
“Andrew Geres, we call him Goose, but he’s made a significant impact,” said Awuah. “Every time he comes on, he works his hardest on both sides of the ball. He just knows his role and he’s in the right spot at the right time and I’m happy that he got his goal in his first game this season.”
Reid agreed with Awuah.
“He (Geres) has got a lot of energy and he’s able to change things. He’s able to influence the match,” Reid said. “His hamstring has been tight and we’ve been smart with him and now he’s back, thank God.”
The Huskies would double their lead in the 72nd minute, as Brems found space on the wing, dribbling past the charging keeper and passing the ball to Zuniga, who would collect himself at the six yard box and slide the ball into the net.
“Sebastian Brems made a great penetrating run through the defense and he was able to kind of shift the goalie a little bit,” said Zuniga. “He put me in a spot where I can have an open goal. I had to take a touch and I was kind of off balance, but I was able to finish the chance.”
Zuniga earned a penalty in the 80th minute as the Cornell defense misjudged a lobbed pass that fell to his feet. They had no choice but to take him down and save the clear goal. Awuah took the penalty, but it was an easy save for the keeper.
With six minutes left in the game, Awuah took the opportunity to showcase his dribbling skills at least one more time, receiving the ball on the left wing and beating three defenders, only for his shot to bounce off the post. Awuah finished the game with five shots, including three on goal.
“He was good today, Kwame was good today,” Reid said. “Other than the penalty kick, but he was good for us today.”
The team looks confident once again, and will be looking to get another winning streak going when they hit the field again next Saturday afternoon at Georgetown.
Christopher Hanna is a campus correspondent. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.