Tensions were high and morale was low after the UConn men’s soccer team lost in devastating fashion against Columbia University last Friday. It was back and forth for all 90 minutes with high-energy play throughout, but the end result was a 3-2 loss for the Huskies.
UConn (3-4-0) came out of the tunnel hungry, the game plan clearly an offensive one in an attempt to score that crucial first goal. Despite having success early on, making smart tackles and getting solid shots off, it was the Lions who struck first.
In the 15th minute, Huskies center back Jake Dengler fouled a Columbia forward just outside the box. Midfielder John Denis took full advantage, bending the free kick around UConn’s wall and goalie Gianluca Catalano and into the upper right corner of the goal, giving the Lions the early 1-0 lead.
UConn continued to get shots off early and often in hopes of a quick response and after a few attempts were able to find one in the 26th minute. As is often the case, the goal began with the ball at senior midfielder Dayonn Harris’ feet.
The redshirt-senior sliced up Columbia’s defense before finding freshman defender Josh Morgan on the right sideline who, after beating a man of his own, sent a lofted ball across toward Jordan Hall. Hall leapt over the Lions back line and sent the header high, over Columbia’s goalie and in for the equalizer and an NCAA-best eighth goal of the season.
The rest of the half would consist of a lot of pressure by UConn’s forwards, but nothing to show for it. Despite the Huskies getting off seven shots compared to Columbia’s two, when the first whistle blew, the teams remained tied 1-1.
The second half began similarly with UConn pouring in the shots, but another set piece from outside the box led to a second Columbia goal, putting them back in the lead. This time it was substitute Uri Zeitz scoring in the 62nd minute. Denis laid the ball off for the midfielder, who lofted his shot over Catalano’s head to put the Lions in front 2-1.
But the Huskies were once again able to show their resilience and responded quickly in the 81st minute, scoring off a set piece of their own. After a Columbia foul, Harris sent in a beautiful ball toward the box where it found the head of captain Robin Lapert who, similar to Hall’s goal earlier, sent his header just over the outstretched hands of the Lions’ keeper and in, tying the game at 2-2 with less than 10 minutes to play.
UConn clearly had the momentum going into the final minutes of the game, but a controversial call in the 84th minute turned the game for the worse. A Columbia clearance was headed toward Morgan in what looked like a routine header, but the defender missed the ball and it went out of bounds untouched. The officials, however, gave the ball to Columbia who took advantage immediately. Sebastian Gunbeyi got the ball in the corner and lasered in a cross that found Denis in what would be the game-winning goal in the 84th minute.
UConn did everything they could for the remainder of the game to force overtime, but of the 16 shots they ended up taking that night, only those two would find the back of the net.
The Huskies get a week off until their game next Friday, where they kickoff conference play with a matchup against USF.
Conner Gilson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.