No. 20 UConn will take on No. 19 UCF Friday afternoon in what’s sure to be a highly competitive match between two of the country’s most impressive teams.
UConn (7-2-1) is on quite a hot streak, going 5-0-1 in their last six matches. And it’s the Huskies’ defense that has been their calling card during that span, shutting their opponent out in three of those six games.
UCF (8-2-1) has an impressive stretch for itself as well, going 6-1-0 in its last seven matches. But unlike UConn, the Golden Knights have been calling upon their offense to beat their opponents. UCF has put a crooked number on the scoreboard in all but one of its eight victories this season.
The two teams that beat UCF this year did so by shutting them out and scoring just one goal for themselves. This plays right into the style that UConn uses. The Huskies have won five of their seven wins by just one goal.
UConn likes to get a lead by keeping possession of the ball for long periods of time, working it around the corners and firing crosses into the box for Abdou Mbacke Thiam and their cast of young forwards. Once ahead, the Huskies rely on their talented defenders like Jacob Hauser-Ramsey and Dylan Greenberg to keep the ball towards midfield and away from their goal.
Hauser-Ramsey is playing as strong of defense as ever, securing back-to-back Defensive Player of the Week awards. The senior was also the preseason selection by coaches for Defensive Player of the Year for the American Athletic Conference (AAC).
On the other side of the ball, the Huskies’ leading scorer Thiam has had another amazing season to this point. Thiam has scored eight goals in UConn’s 10 games, also adding three assists to his statline. After scoring double-digit goals in each of his first three seasons at UConn, Thiam seems to be well on his way to a fourth one. He ranks second in the conference in goals and points only to UCF’s Cal Jennings.
Jennings has been on fire lately, scoring four goals in Central Florida’s last two games. Keeping him from getting clean looks in the box will be paramount to UConn’s success on defense. UConn’s goalkeeper Austin Aviza will have the tall task of keeping all of Jennings’ shots out of the goal. Aviza is having an impressive season, and he currently leads the AAC in shutouts and goals against average.
Getting a number onto the Huskies’ side of the board and keeping a goose egg on UCF’s side will no doubt be the game plan for UConn on Friday. The game kicks off at 4 p.m. at UCF Soccer Complex.
Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.