The UConn men’s soccer team improved to 2-0 on the young season, defeating Niagara, 1-0, on Sunday night in Storrs. Senior Abdou Mback Thiam converted a penalty kick in the 70th minute to hand the Huskies the victory.
UConn outshot Niagara (0-2) by a 15-2 margin, controlling possession and dictating pace throughout, but escaped with only a one-goal advantage. It was a dominating victory, though a frustrating one.
“These games are tough,” senior Jacob Hauser-Ramsey said after the win. “When you don’t score right away, sometimes guys will get down on themselves and hang their heads. We did a good job staying focused and being patient, knowing it will come, which it did.”
It was a sloppy first half for the Huskies, with plenty of opportunities but nothing to show for it. They outshot the Purple Eagles 9-0, but just couldn’t find the back of the net.
The Huskies nearly broke through in the 14th minute, missing by inches. Sophomore transfer Robin Lapert got his head on a corner kick but it hit the crossbar and was cleared away. In the 25th, Thiam had a near-goal of his own, creatively flicking the ball up to himself and volleying it with his left foot, but it was gobbled up by the Niagara keeper.
UConn missed yet another golden opportunity right before the half in the 43rd minute. A nice through ball set up redshirt freshman Cole Venner with only the goalie to beat, but his shot went right into the body of the keeper. The rebound landed at the feet of sophomore Blaise N’Gague, but he was unable to settle it and lobbed it wide.
The second half began in the same fashion, with the Purple Eagles pinned back in their final third for nearly the entire half. However, as Niagara seemed increasingly content to sit back and come away with a draw, it seemed uncertain if the Huskies would be able to break through.
“I give them credit,” head coach Ray Reid said of his team. “They kept great patience in the second half and kept moving the ball. I thought we showed great resilience, playing an opponent who was very content to play for a draw.”
It was in the 70th minute that the Huskies finally capitalized. Redshirt junior Dayonn Harris earned a penalty kick after a poor sliding tackle in the Niagara box. Thiam took the penalty, calmly depositing his shot in the bottom right corner of the net to give UConn a 1-0 lead.
“These teams like to sit back, so it’s tough for us to find a spot in front,” Thiam said after the game. “We did a really good job of moving the ball.”
A fantastic save by Niagara goalie Steve Casey prevented Thiam from notching his second goal of the night in the 89th minute. Nevertheless, UConn hung on from there to remain undefeated.
Next up for the Huskies is a trip to Indiana to take on Notre Dame on Friday.