Last season, the UConn men’s soccer team could not find a victory in their final four American Athletic Conference matchups. The Huskies went 0-3-1 in those games, spoiling a spectacular 3-0 start in conference play. In the next game after that stretch, UConn lost in its first game of the conference tournament to end the season.
After a 2-1 loss to Memphis on Saturday night, this year’s team appears to be following a similar path.
UConn (7-6-2, 4-2 the American) began conference play with a 4-0 record, but after a tough loss to Memphis, the Huskies are limping into the end of the regular season. In the last two weekends, UConn has lost two home games to conference opponents by one goal each.
Saturday’s loss to Memphis was particularly painful for the Huskies. On a Senior Night, celebrating the team’s six graduating seniors, UConn outplayed the Tigers for much of the game. However, the Huskies could not finish on several golden opportunities before giving up the game-winning goal with under four minutes to play.
“I thought we played well,” UConn head coach Ray Reid said. “But the game is won in the boxes, and in the two boxes we’re not very good.”
After an early goal by the Huskies, Memphis tied the game at one in the 63rd minute with a sloppy goal. Tigers senior Alec Velez was able to beat UConn goalkeeper Scott Levene as the ball snuck over the goal line on a rare mistake for the Huskies’ sure-handed redshirt senior.
“I think it slipped out of (Levene’s) hands, it was just unlucky,” UConn redshirt junior defender Dylan Greenberg said. “He never makes mistakes, but anything can happen in soccer.”
The Huskies had a flurry of great chances with about 15 minutes left in regulation, but they were unable to finish. From the 74th minute to the 81st, UConn had three incredible opportunities to break a 1-1 tie, including a point blank shot from freshman Austin DaSilva that was saved by the Memphis goalkeeper.
Shortly after, UConn conceded the go-ahead goal in the 87th minute. Memphis freshman Brantley Bice finished easily after being was sent behind the defense on a short pass from David Zalzman.
“We took our foot off the gas and one play can get us a negative result,” Greenberg said.
The Huskies got on the scoreboard first when freshman Nicolas Apostol scored his second career goal in the 10th minute. Niko Petridis crossed the ball to Abdou Mbacke Thiam at the far post and Thiam headed the ball back toward the front of the net where Apostol was ready to finish. The freshman celebrated his goal with an acrobatic backflip.
UConn was unable to hold the lead, giving up two late goals despite outshooting Memphis 16-12 and creating significantly better chances for most of the night.
“We should’ve had what, 10 goals tonight?” Reid said. “We’ve gotta regroup and get ready for Yale.”
The Huskies have already clinched a spot in the American Conference Tournament, but they lost their spot at the top of the standings with the loss. UConn will take on conference-leading SMU next weekend and if the Huskies were to win, they would win the regular season title and be seeded first in the AAC Tournament.
“We’re not out,” Greenberg said. “We’re still in, we just gotta keep the guys together, stay as a group and beat Yale and SMU.”
The Huskies will host Yale in a nonconference matchup before the big match against SMU next weekend. The Bulldogs will come to Storrs for UConn’s home finale on Tuesday for Halloween Night.
It will be the final regular season home match for UConn’s six graduating seniors; Levene, David Abunaw, Cheikh Stephane Coly, Andrew Geres, Alex Kao and Santiago Muriel. The group was honored in a pregame ceremony as part of Senior Night before Saturday’s match.
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.