The UConn men’s soccer team traveled to Tampa this weekend for a matchup against the USF Bulls. Both teams entered the match with a 3-0 record in American Athletic Conference play, tied atop the standings.
UConn (7-3-2, 4-0 the American) scored two early goals and held USF scoreless to earn a 2-0 victory and claim sole possession of first place in the conference.
Four minutes into the game, freshman Josh Burnett scored his first career goal to give the Huskies an early lead. Burnett received a throw-in and executed a beautiful pair of one-touch passes with Abdou Mbacke Thiam. Thiam’s back-heel pass sent Burnett into the box for a one-on-one with the USF goalkeeper, and the freshman was able to finish.
Just three minutes later, Thiam scored a goal of his own. The junior captain scored his eighth goal of the year on a breakaway, beating the goalkeeper to double the Huskies’ lead in the eighth minute of the game.
Thiam’s goal and assist brought him to 18 points on the season, leading UConn by a wide margin and good for third place in the American. Sophomore Niko Petridis is the second on the Huskies with six points.
USF (6-4-1, 3-1 the American) managed to outshoot UConn 18-9 in the match, including an 11-2 advantage in the second half. After the two early goals, UConn did not put as much pressure on the Bulls defense as the Huskies focused on keeping their lead intact.
UConn redshirt senior goalkeeper Scott Levene played a crucial part in keeping USF off the scoreboard. Levene made four saves in his 64th consecutive start for the Huskies and cut out several crosses from the aggressive Bulls offense.
Levene’s most impressive save of the night came in the 88th minute when USF’s Bradley Farias tested the goalkeeper’s reactions. Farias connected on an impressive scorpion kick, forcing Levene to make an equally impressive diving save. Levene punched the ball away, conserving the shutout and denying Farias’ brilliant effort.
The clean sheet on Friday night was Levene’s seventh shutout of the season, leading the American. Levene also leads the conference with a .846 save percentage.
The UConn defense stood tall in the match despite being without 6-foot-3 defender Nkosi Burgess, who sat out with an injury.
The Huskies return to action soon with a nonconference matchup at Boston College on Tuesday.
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.