Over a year after the men’s soccer team last played a match, UConn returns to the pitch in a newly remodeled Morrone Stadium. Led by coach Ray Reid in his 22nd season in the program, the Huskies’ season opener is against Sacred Heart University.
The Huskies already have a couple home exhibition matches under them to start the season. The first fixture occurred on Feb. 6 against Fordham, where freshman Okem Chime and Giancarlo Vaccaro led UConn to a 2-0 win. Their most recent exhibition came against the University of New Hampshire on Feb. 12. Despite a valiant effort offensively and defensively, the match remained scoreless after the final whistle.
The last time we saw the Huskies on the pitch was back in 2019, the same year we all got to see the magic of Jordan Hall. Hall did wonders for the team until his injury about halfway through that season. However, there’s still talent, with both new and returning players having the potential to fill in a Hall-esque role.
One of the first players to take note of is freshman midfielder Maxwel De-Bodene. De-Bodene has an interesting background for the sport, which includes having played in the United States Soccer Development Academy for a couple years. He was also in Blackburn Rovers’ Academy for a year, where he scored three goals and provided four assists in eight appearances.
As for returning players, midfielder Felix Meltzer and forward Moussa Wade could prove to be vital players once more in coach Reid’s XI. Having started in 13 matches of the 2019 season, Meltzer locked in two goals and assists. As for Wade, he also scored two goals in the same campaign year and provided one assist.
Looking at the visiting side, Sacred Heart will enter the match without much prep time as the hosts. The Pioneers were supposed to play UMass on Feb. 10 but had to postpone. Almost half of their squad is composed of first-year players, but that shouldn’t make the Huskies think they won’t put up a fight. UConn’s attacking players may find some difficulty in getting the ball past the back of the net, as it’s expected for SHU to continue having Josh Inkel in goal, who saved 27 goals, while only conceding 13 in the five games he played.
Aside from Inkel, junior forward Segundo Navarro could play around with the defense and tire them out. Having started in all 16 games he played in the 2019-20 season, the forward secured eight goals and assists.
Kickoff is at 2 p.m.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of @uconnmsoc on Instagram.