The UConn men’s soccer team (8-5-5) is set to play the second-seeded South Florida Bulls (11-4-3) in the American Athletic Conference Semifinals Friday at 7 p.m. at Corbett Stadium.
The Huskies tallied a season-high four goals their last time out against the Temple Owls in the AAC quarterfinals. UConn’s freshman goal machine, Abdou Mbacke Thiam, recorded his third multi-goal game of the season. The freshman leads the team with ten goals on the year.
UConn junior co-captain Kwame Awuah spoke to Daily Campus staff writer Elan-Paolo DeCarlo last Saturday about Thiam’s play:
“His adaption to the U.S. college game (has been the difference). (Thiam) knows what we need from him now and he’s able to understand. If he can get the ball in dangerous places, he can finish it off. He’s a quality player.”
The Huskies head into the semifinals riding a six game unbeaten streak. Their last loss was on Oct. 13 against Louisville. They have outscored opponents 12-3 during that stretch, including three shutouts.
“We knew that in order to win, we had to go out and play harder than (Temple),” said Awuah. “Playoff time, whoever works harder is going to win the game. That’s all that matters.”
UConn redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Scott Levene has really stepped up for the Huskies during the final stretch of the season. Levene’s 0.72 GAA ranks first in the American and 22nd in the country.
Friday’s semifinals match will mark the 16th time the two programs have met on the field. UConn holds a 10-2-3 all-time record over the Bulls. The Huskies got the best of the Bulls the last time out. UConn escaped with a 2-1 home victory on Oct. 31. UConn head coach Ray Reid told DeCarlo that the team is not taking anything for granted.
“South Florida is a very good team,” Reid said. “We’re playing with house money right now. We’re a young group; they have much more experience than we do. We’re going to go down there and keep the game close. (USF) probably has the most talent in the league, they’re at home, they finished second in the league. We’re the underdog, they’re the odds on favorite in this one.”
The biggest factor heading into the game will be whether the Huskies can get on the board first. UConn is 7-1-1 when they score first. The Huskies also sport a 6-0-0 record when they score multiple goals in a game.
Eddie Leonard is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering UConn men’s soccer. He tweets @EddieLeonard23.