Two goals in each half of the Halloween night game against state rival Yale lifted the Huskies to a win in their last home regular season game and improved their overall record to 8-6-2.
Although it was a slow start to a cold game last night, the Huskies were able to push past the initial pressure from the Bulldogs. Patience, pressure and passing were three key aspects that helped the team.
“They sat ten guys back and our guys did a good job moving the ball. The counter came from a real quick combination to break a couple of guys down,” Coach Ray Reid said.
In the 20th minute of the first half, a combination led by redshirt junior Dylan Greenberg resulted in a foul in the box and a penalty for UConn.
Junior Abdou Mbacke Thiam stepped up to the circle and kicked the penalty to the left post away from the Yale goalkeeper, leaving him with no chance. It was his 10th goal of the season.
After the goal, UConn had the calmness to keep the ball and move it between Josh Burnett and Mbacke Thiam, who were always dangerous players in the offense.
Yale coaches yelled on the sidelines to let their players know about the danger posed by UConn’s offensive players.
Multiple chances followed the goal with clear chances from free kicks, set plays and counter attacks.
In the second half, it was more of the same with the Huskies dominating possession, but things got touchy between players on both teams.
With 30 minutes left in the half, sophomore Niko Petridis scored after a run and a perfect pass from Mbacke Thiam that left the midfielder alone for the last touch in front of the goalkeeper.
“We are trying to get them to keep being aggressive in the last third but keeping the balance,” Reid said. “You don’t want nine guys going forward and being exposed in the counter.”
UConn was effective in getting the second balls and preventing Yale from getting comfortable. The game became a little chippy in the second half with the referee blowing the whistle on multiple occasions.
Yale’s Cameron Riach and UConn’s Nkosi Burgess and Greenberg all got yellow cards in the second half.
Burnett was the victim of several fouls but UConn was not without fault either as Blaise N’Gague got whistled for excessive force in a tackle.
Even with the win result, there were two worrying injuries. One happened to one of the team pillars, Greenberg, who left with 13 minutes on the clock holding his leg.
The other injury happened halfway through the second half. Midfielder Cheikh Coly left injured. Both player will recover, Reid said afterwards, Coly is just tight and was taken out for precaution and Greenberg got kicked in his ankle.
The importance of the game was emphasized by Reid before the game. After this win, another win against SMU on Saturday could lead the Huskies to win the American Athletic Conference regular season championship and host the AAC tournament.
“We got a young group, it’s an interesting group,” Reid said. “It has developed in front of us and I would like to win on Saturday. We are on the tournament already.”
Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.