The UConn men’s soccer team was ranked No. 24 in the United Soccer Coaches’ Preseason Poll. After finishing the year with a .500 record and getting bounced in the American Athletic Conference semifinals for the second straight year, it would be a stretch to say that the season was anything more than a huge disappointment.
Other than a glimpse of greatness in the middle of the season, the Huskies (8-8-2, 4-3 The American) finished the year the same way they started it: poorly. UConn lost five of its last six games and each of those five losses was by just one goal, including a few heartbreaking endings.
In the season opener, the Huskies were upset by Iona in double overtime after failing to score all game. Iona had just four wins the rest of the season, making UConn’s loss look even worse in hindsight. The Huskies scored just one goal (an overtime game-winner) in their first three games of the year.
UConn’s mid-season stretch of five wins in six games, with the lone loss to then-No. 3 Maryland, showed that the Huskies were capable of being great. A 4-0 record to begin the conference season farther exemplified that, as UConn was heading into the final stretch with plenty of momentum before falling apart.
Junior captain Abdou Mbacke Thiam led UConn in scoring for the third consecutive season. Thiam scored 10 goals this season, leading the next closest Husky, sophomore Niko Petridis, by seven goals. Thiam also led the team in assists with four. The 10 goals and four assists exactly match Thiam’s numbers from last year’s sophomore season.
After Thiam’s 10 goals and Petridis’ three goals came a trio of freshmen with impressive seasons. Austin DaSilva, Josh Burnett and Nicolas Apostol each tallied two goals for the Huskies. All three freshmen, along with freshman Blaise N’Gague and sophomore Munir Saleh, played significant minutes and were praised by head coach Ray Reid throughout the season for their talent. All five will be staples in the UConn lineup for the future.
The defense, consisting of sophomore Nkosi Burgess, juniors Jacob Hauser-Ramsey and Dylan Greenberg and senior Andrew Geres along with redshirt senior goalkeeper Scott Levene, allowed an average of just one goal per game, good for third in the American. Levene and the Huskies recorded eight shutouts, second-best in the conference.
Levene graduates and leaves Storrs after an extremely impressive career. The AAC Semifinal loss against UCF was Levene’s 70th consecutive start in net for the Huskies, the second-longest streak in program history after he passed UConn legend Andre Blake earlier this season. Levene made 219 saves in his UConn career, including 64 saves in 2017.
Despite the rough ending to the season, UConn can find a way to look at the season as a learning experience for the talented young players on their roster. Besides Levene – which is a huge exception – the Huskies will return a majority of their key players for next season. Levene, Geres and Cheikh Stephane Coly are the only seniors that received significant playing time.
While this year marks the second consecutive season that the Huskies fell apart late in the year, there is reason to believe that a year of experience could prove beneficial to the roster and UConn will once again be contending for the American Championship in 2018.
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.