Kwame Awuah notched his first goal of the season Tuesday night to lead the UConn men’s soccer team to a 1-0 win over the Yale Bulldogs at home.
Tuesday’s match got off to an extremely slow start; both teams were glued to midfield play for the majority of the first half. Neither team was able to record a shot for 15 minutes.
UConn had the game’s first scoring opportunity in the 16th minute when Awuah sent a beautiful through-ball to freshman Abdou Mbacke Thiam in the center of the box. However, Yale goalkeeper Ryan Simpson scooped the ball away from UConn’s leading goal scorer, preventing Thiam from notching his eighth goal of the season.
The Bulldogs had an opportunity of their own in the 18th minute after junior midfielder Henry Albrecht challenged UConn goalkeeper Scott Levene for a loose ball, 10 yards outside of the net. Albrecht was able to outmuscle Levene for a quick loose ball header, which sailed into the side of the net.
The Huskies soon retaliated with another breathtaking play. Redshirt sophomore defender Andrew Geres had every fan out of their chilly seats in the 26th minute after he clanged a rocket from 20 yards out off the crossbar.
“I got the ball and I saw the open field. I thought why not take a shot so I took it,” Geres said. “I thought it was going in at first, but it rose a little too high and hit the crossbar.”
The midfield stalemate really began to go the Huskies’ way near the end of the first half. The Huskies held a 7-1 advantage heading into the intermission. UConn made a home out of Yale’s backfield.
UConn junior co-captain Jakob Nerwinski was omnipresent inside the Bulldogs’ box. He was splitting Yale defenders like sandwiches, while still finding teammate after teammate in the box.
“Nerwinski has been great,” said UConn head coach Ray Reid. “He is our right back. He is the best right back in America.”
The Huskies began the second half the same way they ended the first. They were aggressive on both sides of the ball. Redshirt senior Tyler Leeman started things off when he found Thiam in stride on the right-hand side, four minutes into the half. Thiam gathered Leeman’s pass before releasing a low shot to the opposite corner of the net that went about a foot wide.
The frustration was beginning to build up, and all signs began to point toward UConn tying another opponent at home after controlling the ball for the majority of the contest.
However this perception changed in the 50th minute when Awuah tallied his first goal of the season on a left-footed rocket from about 25 yards out.
“I am not even really sure what happened,” Awuah said. “Simen (Olafsen) tried to shoot, but it deflected back to me. I was going to pass it out wide, but everyone ran the other way, so I was like, ‘okay I am just going to shoot.’ So then I shot, it took a nice swerve, the goalie went the other way, and it went in. First goal, it is about time. Maybe it is a breakthrough, who knows.”
Geres was one of many teammates who expressed his joy for Awuah after the game.
“Kwame has been working really hard. He has been in really good form lately,” Geres said. “It is just unfortunate that he has been a little off when it came to shooting this year. He finally got it so hopefully that can help him and the team moving forward.”
The Bulldogs almost tied the game in the 85th minute in thrilling fashion after freshman midfielder Nicky Downs rattled a bullet off Levene’s crossbar. However that would be the last real opportunity the Bulldogs had in the game.
“The guys did a good job,” said Reid. “They did a good job managing the game and getting the win. Now we have a couple days to prepare for South Florida.”
UConn’s final regular season game will be at home on Saturday Oct. 31, against the University of South Florida. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Eddie Leonard is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering UConn men’s soccer. He tweets @EddieLeonard23.