The UConn men’s soccer team has the chance to clinch the American Athletic Conference regular-season title against No. 13 SMU with a win Friday.
The Huskies (8-6-2, 4-2 the American) and the Mustangs (12-2-1, 4-1-1 the American) have both clinched a spot in the conference’s four-team championship tournament, but SMU is trying to hold onto a slim one-point lead over UConn for first place.
“We’ve played a tough schedule, our record should be better, but we have everything in front of us on Saturday at SMU,” UConn head coach Ray Reid said.
UConn is coming off a 2-0 win against Yale that halted a three-game losing skid. Junior Abdou Mbacke Thiam and sophomore Niko Petridis scored for the Huskies on Tuesday night. Thiam converted his team-leading 10th goal of the season on a penalty kick and Petridis doubled the team’s lead with a goal on a counter attack.
The Mustangs are 9-0 at home this season and lead the conference in goals per game with 2.00. Senior Garrett McLaughlin has 12 goals on the season, tied for ninth on the national scoring chart and leading the American.
Senior Mauro Cichero has also been a focal point of the Mustangs’ attack with nine goals and a team-leading seven assists on the season. Redshirt senior Michael Nelson has been a wall in net for SMU with eight shutouts on the season, tied with UConn keeper Scott Levene.
SMU is coming off of a scoreless draw to conference rival USF.
UConn dominates the all-time series 6-2-1 in a rivalry that dates back to 1983. Last time out, the two teams tied 1-1 in Storrs. Former Husky Simen Olafsen scored UConn’s lone goal on that day.
Winning the four-team tournament is likely the Huskies’ only chance of getting a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Although the Huskies have been strong in the latter half of their season and during conference play, the team’s slow start to the season may end up being costly.
The Huskies will either face off against USF, UCF or Temple in the conference tournament.
Antonio Salazar is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.