UConn men’s soccer came away with a win over conference rival Temple 2-1 after falling behind at the start the game. Abdou Mbacke Thiam came in clutch with the game-winning goal with less than three minutes left in regulation.
UConn (9-2-2) extended its record at home to 8-0-1. With just two remaining home games left on the regular season schedule, sending Morrone Stadium off with an undefeated season is looking more and more possible.
Temple (4-8-3) scored the first goal of the game in the 38th minute of the game after Elias Hellgren Villegas beat his man around the left edge and fired a shot into the right side of the Huskies’ net.
“I did not think that we really competed in the first 15 minutes of the game,” head coach Ray Reid said. “I thought that the last 15 [minutes] of the first half and the entire second half we played with urgency, and it was just a matter of time before we broke them down.”
From halftime on, UConn dominated the ball, rarely allowing Temple to get a clean offensive possession. UConn out-shot Temple 9-4 in the second half and 15-6 for the entire game.
“They’re a tough team [Temple], they’re physical and organized defensively,” Reid said.
UConn earned a golden opportunity to tie the game up in the 62nd minute. Senior Dylan Greenberg dribbled his way around defenders in the box looking for an open look and got fouled, giving Thiam a chance at a penalty kick.
Thiam faked a quick-kick to get into the goalkeeper’s head and then unleashed a bullet straight at the keeper, but the keeper had already committed to diving to his left and allowed Thiam to score his 10th goal of the season. With this goal, Thiam has now scored double-digit goals in each of his four seasons at UConn.
In the 62nd, 65th and 66th minutes, we saw UConn keeper Austin Aviza make a clutch save just off of his fingertips and make great plays to intercept Temple crosses that would’ve resulted in good looks at the goal.
“Defensively we’re pretty solid, so they make my life pretty easy,” Aviza said.
In the 87th minute, Thiam did what he’s done all season in close games down the stretch for the Huskies. He found a creative way to score.
Thiam dribbled the ball up field on a breakaway with just one defender on his hip and the keeper in goal to beat. The goalkeeper came up to block Thiam, and right when Thiam saw the keeper make a move, he fired a high-arching chip shot over the 6-foot-nine Temple keeper’s head to score the game winning goal.
The goal marked number 11 for Thiam on the year, which tied his season-high. It was also Thiam’s sixth game winning goal of the season, tying UCF’s Cal Jennings for the most in the conference.
“In that situation, it was the only option that I had,” Thiam said, “I knew that the keeper was going to come up. I was confident, I know myself and I knew that I could score.”
The goal resulted in a five-minute period in which the referees got together to discuss whether there was offsides against UConn on the play. After deliberating, the referees decided that the goal would stand.
With just 30 seconds left in regulation and the score 2-1 in favor of the Huskies, Temple shot what looked like the equalizer into the back of UConn’s net. However, due to a penalty, the goal didn’t end up counting and UConn held on to win by one.
“I was going up for the ball, and I just got pushed while going up for it,” Aviza said.
UConn will play their next game at home against the University of Vermont on Tuesday night. Vermont is 10-5 this season. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m.
Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.