The UConn men’s soccer team has looked promising at times, but this season has been largely disappointing. The Huskies have suffered several tough losses – each of their seven losses has been by one goal – and have probably lost their chance of getting an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.
This weekend, UConn has a chance to change the narrative of their season.
The Huskies (8-7-2, 4-3 The American) will take on UCF this Friday in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Championship, hosted by SMU. UConn will have to defeat the Knights, then beat the winner of the SMU/Temple match to win the American title and clinch an NCAA Tournament berth.
UCF (7-5-2, 4-2-1 The American) comes into the tournament undefeated in their last seven matches, including wins in each of their last five. The Knights clinched a spot in the four-team American Championship on the season’s final day, defeating Cincinnati in overtime.
The Knights rank second in the American in both goals scored and goals against, with 1.71 and 0.93 per game, respectively. Offensively, senior Matias Pyysalo leads the team with 12 goals, including one against the Huskies three weeks ago.
In that Oct. 21 game, UCF defeated UConn 3-2. It was the first conference loss of the season for the Huskies and it sparked a three-game losing streak in American matches to end the season. While UCF comes into the game with plenty of momentum, UConn has limped to the end of the regular season.
The Huskies have made the American Championship in each year of its four-year existence. However, they have never won the title. UConn lost twice in the final – each time on penalty kicks – and twice in the semifinal, including a 2-0 loss to Tulsa last season.
While not making the NCAA Tournament would likely make fans consider UConn’s season a failure, the future is bright for the Huskies. UConn has four freshmen and three sophomores playing meaningful minutes this season, and all of the Huskies’ goals have come from players that will be returning next year.
However, redshirt senior goalkeeper Scott Levene could be playing his last match for the Huskies this weekend. Levene has been UConn’s starting goalkeeper for 69 consecutive matches, an incredibly impressive feat that ranks second in program history.
For the team to extend Levene’s career, they’ll have to get past UCF before worrying about the championship match. The Huskies and Knights will kick off on Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Dallas, Texas.
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.