The UConn men’s soccer team advanced to the second round of the College Cup on Thursday, defeating the University of Rhode Island Rams 4-3.
After going down 3-1 less than 10 minutes into the second half, the Huskies managed to tie it up towards the end of regulation and force overtime, where they eventually would win the game.
“They are resilient, they are driven, they got good character, and they just want to keep playing,” said head coach Ray Reid.
After a relatively uneventful first third of the game, the Huskies managed to strike first, as leading goal-scorer Abdou Mbacke Thiam headed a Dayonn Harris corner kick into the URI net in the 34th minute.
The Rams answered right away, and before the clock read 40:00 the Huskies were faced with a 2-1 deficit following a pair of Tyler Dickson goals. Then shortly after halftime, URI senior forward Chae Brangman extended the Rams’ lead to 3-1, seemingly putting the game out of reach.
However, the Huskies didn’t quit, and thanks to some spectacular goalkeeping by freshman Gianluca Catalano, UConn was able to remain in the game.
“We couldn’t give up a fourth goal and make it 4-1, that would have been insurmountable,” Reid said. “We might have got 4-3, but we weren’t gonna — it’s just not gonna happen.”
UConn cut the deficit in half in the 76th minute, when freshman forward Ibrahima Diop was able to put one in the back of the net.
Diop wasn’t finished and netted the equalizer in the 80th minute, and UConn would manage to stifle a strong URI attack in the final ten minutes to force overtime.
Then, when UConn needed a hero, Diop stepped up again, and headed a beautiful pass from none other than Abdou Mbacke Thiam in for the win.
Diop, who through 19 games this season scored just one goal, recorded a hat trick when it really mattered.
“He’s learning,” Reid said. “He scored a big goal at Memphis, 10 seconds to go to end the game for us on the road, and then he got three today, three beauties.”
UConn’s next challenge will be on Sunday, November 19th vs. No.2 Indiana, and Reid is preparing the team for their hardest challenge all season.
“They’re going to throw everything at us,” Reid said. “But you know what, there are two options. We can try to beat them, or Rhode Island can try to beat them. We’re gonna try and beat them.”
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.