The UConn men’s soccer team scored three second half goals, including two career-firsts, en route to a commanding 3-0 win over conference foe Cincinnati on Saturday night at Morrone Stadium.
UConn (6-2-1, 2-0-1 The American), ranked No. 24 in the country, backed up their return to the national rankings with an emphatic win. The Huskies remain perfect at home (5-0-1) and in conference play, but their head coach still sees room for improvement.
“As good as we were in the first half, we were not good in the second half,” head coach Ray Reid said. “We’ve got (to) play better soccer, or we’re not going to beat Sacred Heart on Tuesday.”
UConn’s previous game on Tuesday at Providence was called off after 60 minutes and will not count towards the Huskies’ record. That’s fortunate news for UConn, because it wasn’t pretty. Up until the lightning storm, the Friars were firmly in control, leading 1-0 with a 11-3 advantage in shots. It was a discouraging performance, but it clearly didn’t linger long in their minds.
The Huskies came out and dominated from the opening whistle, recording 12 shots in the first half compared to Cincinnati’s (3-8-1, 1-2 The American) three. Yet despite the discrepancy in shots, the match remained scoreless at the half.
That changed in the 56th minute, and it was a familiar face who delivered for the Huskies. Senior Abdou Mbacke Thiam handed UConn a 1-0 lead, easily beating an out-of-position defender and cashing in on a one-on-one breakaway with the goalie.
“As a [forward], my job is to score goals,” Thiam said. “But my teammates make it easier by giving me the right ball, so all I need to do is focus and no matter what I’m going to have a chance.”
It’s Thiam’s team-leading seventh goal of the season, putting him in the top 20 of all players in the country. As impressive of a total as that is, his head coach was surprised that it isn’t higher, recounting each of his goals from memory in the postgame press conference.
In the 79th minute, redshirt senior Dylan Greenberg’s cross found the head of redshirt freshman Cole Venner for his first career goal, making it 2-0 in favor of UConn. With a minute to play, UConn put the nail in the coffin courtesy of true freshman Steffen Yeates, winning a 50-50 ball and booting it home for his first goal in a UConn uniform as well.
“Moving forward, it’s just getting myself in the right spaces and keep creating opportunities for myself and other teammates,” Yeates said. “It gives me confidence going into the next games, hopefully to score more and create more goals for Abdou and other players who are attacking.”
With the victory, UConn now seizes sole possession of first place in the American Athletic Conference with seven points in conference play. The Huskies will look to keep things rolling against Sacred Heart at home on Tuesday night.