After a brutal 1-0 loss at home to the USF Bulls, the University of Connecticut men’s soccer team had to bounce back in a big way against one of the toughest opponents on their schedule, the Boston College Eagles. Although it wasn’t pretty, the Huskies did that and more in a huge overtime win that could define their season.
UConn’s first real chance of the match came in the 19th minute after back-to-back corners, the second of which was nearly headed in by center back Simen Olafsen, but his effort went just wide. Later, a pass by Jake Nerwinski in the 23rd minute was deflected to the top of the box, where Dylan Greenberg was waiting for a one-timed blast at goal, but his shot went wide as well.
In the 54th minute, Geres found Abdou Mbacke Thiam with a pass down the right wing. The pass wasn’t on target, but Thiam made an incredible flick at the ball and beat his defender before earning a penalty kick. Thiam would unfortunately miss off the crossbar, putting himself at one for three on penalty kicks for the year.
“I’m going to work hard to get better at these penalty kicks,” Thiam said. “I just tried to beat the keeper high, but it didn’t work. The important thing for me is not about Abdou scoring, it is about UConn winning the game.”
Later, tri-captain Kwame Awuah played a beautiful ball to Thiam at the far post in the 67th minute but it was just out of reach for his left foot to tap it in for the goal. A bad back pass by the Eagles nearly put Thiam through at goal. His chip over the goalie was a little too slow, however, as another defender made a goal line clearance to keep the game tied at zero.
The game would ultimately go to a golden goal overtime, as neither team could produce much of an attack for the remainder of regulation.
UConn outshot BC 14-4 in the 100 minute game and dominated possession of the ball. They clearly looked like the better team and had many more chances in the early stages of the game, but for the second game in a row it seemed like the Huskies couldn’t finish their attacks off with a goal. Fortunately for the Huskies, this time they got their chance in the first overtime period.
“We just took the chances that we had,” Awuah said. “Obviously, the goals never came [until the end], but we did the best we can. In overtime, we just tried to stay sound defensively and when we had the chance, we tried to finish it off.”
Despite a lack of chances for much of the first overtime period, Boston College earned a crucial corner kick with just about 30 seconds remaining. The Eagles sent nine men forward in hopes of getting the winner, but the decision was a terrible mistake on their end.
The Huskies went on an incredible counter attack with just seconds left, as Greenberg cleared the corner to Olafsen, who proceeded to dribble the ball out to the left wing before passing backwards to an open Thiam at midfield. Thiam then crossed the ball in to Awuah in the box, who subsequently laid the ball off to Greenberg, who made a huge run down the field.
Greenberg would ultimately finish the play he started with a game-winning goal with just seven seconds remaining in the first overtime to beat BC. The goal was Greenberg’s first of the year and gave the Huskies a huge quality win that will help them come NCAA tournament selection time.
“This is definitely a special moment, especially in a big win that really can get us into the tournament,” Greenberg said. “I’m definitely going to brag about [the goal] for a little bit, but we got to take each game step by step and move on to the next one.”
“This was a great response after South Florida,” head coach Ray Reid said. “Tonight, we come out and they’re a good team, No. 20 in the RPI, but I thought our guys handled ourselves real well. Abdou (Thiam) missed the penalty kick and we should’ve had a few goals in the first half. I think it was a great team effort. Our guys got a lot of pride. This team has improved a lot and there’s a lot of character in the group.”
Next up, the Huskies travel to Orlando to take on the UCF Knights in a conference matchup, the first of three remaining games on their schedule. With a ton of confidence regained from the win against the Eagles, UConn should be in great form to finish off the season strong and get back to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row.
Chris Hanna is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org