Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: The UConn men’s soccer team pulled off a win by the skin of their teeth Tuesday night at Morrone Stadium.
UConn (10-2-2) beat the University of Vermont (10-6-0) 3-2 thanks to a game-winning goal from Dayonn Harris. Abdou Mbacke Thiam, who scored his 12th goal of the season earlier in the game to tie it at 2-2, fired a shot that ricocheted off of the crossbar. Luckily, Harris was there to follow the shot and put it in with less than a minute left in regulation.
If you’ve been keeping up with UConn men’s soccer this season, then you know this isn’t the first time they needed a game-winning goal to break a tie late in the game.
Against Loyola University Maryland, Thiam scored three goals, including the game winner on Sept. 15. Thiam also scored the game winner in the 88th minute of the Sacred Heart game on Oct. 9. In the season opener against Lehigh University, Felix Metzler scored the game winner in the final five minutes of the game.
“This group of guys is very resilient,” head coach Ray Reid said. “This is the toughest group of kids in my 22 years at UConn.”
The final 37 seconds of the game were the only time the Huskies had a lead all night, as UVM jumped on them early with a goal in the 11th minute.
This game reminded me an awful lot of the previous game against Temple University on Saturday night. In that game, UConn let the Owls jump out to a 1-0 lead in the first half. Thanks to two second half goals from Thiam, with the game-winner coming in the 87th minute, the Huskies pulled out the 2-1 win.
Though the Huskies came away with the win, it was a lot closer than Reid would have liked. He knows that as tourney time approaches, slow starts and late game heroics aren’t going to cut it anymore. He wants his guys to come out of the gates stronger than they have been for Saturday against SMU.
“When there’s a gun to our head, we always play better,” Reid said. “They’re playing with fire, and I’m not sure if they’re mature enough to figure it out.”
Saturday’s game against SMU is significant for a couple of reasons. Saturday will be the final men’s soccer game played at Morrone Stadium before it is replaced with a new soccer facility.
On top of that, SMU (7-4-2) and UCF (10-2-2) both have conference records of 3-1-1, while UConn stands at 3-0-2. SMU will be gunning to take down UConn, and cross their fingers that UCF loses, to launch themselves into first place in the American Athletic Conference as the conference tournament approaches.
“It’s bigger than Indiana, it’s bigger than Notre Dame, it’s the biggest,” Reid said. “We haven’t been in a game as large as this SMU game is going to be, in four years.”
SMU is 3-0-1 this October, and has been rolling since struggling the first two weeks of the season, in which they were 1-2-1. UConn, however, has been unbeatable at home, going a nearly flawless 10-0-1 while playing at Morrone. Sending Morrone off with an undefeated home record would mean a lot to this team, and this university.
UConn will take on SMU on Saturday night at Morrone Stadium for the last time. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m.
Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.