With a week to go in the regular season, the UConn men’s soccer team sat atop the American conference standings in the driver’s seat to secure the No. 1 seed and become hosts of the conference tournament. The Huskies have since lost their final two games and now settle for the fourth-seed, taking on fifth-seeded Temple on Tuesday in Orlando in the first round of the AAC Championship.
After rattling off a 10-game unbeaten streak, UConn (10-4-2, 3-2-2 The American) now heads into the tournament with no momentum whatsoever. The Huskies will, however, have the confidence from the regular season matchup against Temple back on Oct. 20, when UConn came out on top 2-1 at home.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first half, two goals from senior Abdou Mbacke Thiam in the second, the second of which in the 88th minute, gave the Huskies the win. The catch: that game was played at UConn’s Morrone Stadium, where the Huskies went 9-1-1 this season. Tuesday’s game will be played on the road, where they were 1-3-1.
Before UConn takes the field, No. 3 USF will take on No. 6 Memphis to kick off the tournament. No. 2 SMU awaits the winner of that matchup, while the winner of UConn-Temple will have the privilege of playing No. 1 UCF (ranked No. 9 in the country) for a spot in the finals.
Averaging just .94 goals per game, Temple (5-9-4, 2-4-1) has one the weakest offenses in the conference. The Owls also have one of the better defenses, allowing the third-fewest goals in the American.
No team in the conference has played more road games this season than Temple, so it’ll be well-prepared for the road test of the AAC tournament. However, the Owls haven’t fared too well in those road games, going 3-8-1 away from home this season.
Junior Lukas Fernandes is the man whom the Huskies will look to take out of the game for Temple. Fernandes leads the team in goals (6), assists (4), shots (24) and points (16). The next closest player has seven points, so UConn defensive captain Jacob Hauser-Ramsey will have his full attention on the dangerous Fernandes.
With a couple wins to end the season, the Huskies could’ve secured a first round bye and avoided playing UCF until the finals. But there’s no time to sulk, and they’ll have to take care of business against Temple to make a semifinals appearance against the Knights.
UConn vs. Temple kicks off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, and will be streamed live on the American Digital Network.