The UConn men’s soccer team returned to play on Saturday, looking for a second win of the season, eight days removed from a close 1-0 loss to the Rhode Island Rams despite having several great opportunities to equalize the game. What a great game it was by both sides in this one, ending in a 1-0 victory for the Huskies.
Sophomore Moussa Wade had a great chance in the seventh minute to give the Huskies the early advantage, but his shot just went over the top of the net. Monmouth had two opportunities on goal between that play, but both of their efforts were saved by goaltender Jahmali Waite.
Fourteen minutes into the contest, freshman Mateo Leveque picked up his first chance to put the Huskies out front, but his shot was saved by Monmouth’s goaltender Sean Murray. Senior Dominic Laws was able to get a shot of his own after Wade kept the ball in the Huskies’ offensive area, but his effort was blocked by the Hawks’ stout defense.
The Huskies continued to strike early and often. Wade had a free kick in the 22nd minute, but just missed the post after being deflected. Wade had another good chance in the 26th minute, but his shot was blocked by the Hawks’ buff defense. After getting through some traffic, freshman Okem Chime redirected a shot up top toward the net, but Murray read it clear as day and got the save.
In the 30th minute, sophomore Thomas Decottignies had a great pass to set up senior Dom Laws with the opportunity to score a beautiful goal, but Laws’ great header went just over the top of the crossbar and out of play.
Nine minutes later, Wade won a free kick after getting fouled by Monmouth’s Jonas Lindner. Leveque was assigned the task of taking this free kick from 20 yards out and had the best chance of the half to give the Huskies the early advantage. But instead of finding the back of the net, his great shot went right into the gloves of Murray for the save.
With the shot total in their favor 11-3 against Monmouth, the Huskies looked to finish off their opportunities in the second half. In the 53rd minute, Wade had his third great chance of the game to put some points on the board, but his shot was saved by Murray.
In the 55th minute, Chime had a great breakaway and only had Murray to beat in front of him. It would be nice to say that Chime won the one-on-one matchup, but it was Murray who read the play out front and came up with the magnificent save.
Two minutes later, freshman Maxwel De-Bodene looked to capitalize on a great chance of his own, but his shot went just over the top of the net and the game would remain in a scoreless deadlock.
In the 68th minute, junior Ahdan Tait got off a shot that was set up nicely, but he missed the net. UConn would get the ball right back and Leveque got off the shot from the top of the box, but it got pushed away on a diving save by Murray. UConn would not score on the ensuing corner kick.
Realizing they were getting outplayed, Monmouth’s Griffin Tomas wanted to make UConn pay for all their misses thus far, but Waite made an incredible dive to deny that crucial opportunity, which was immediately followed by a blocked shot off the foot of Liam McGregor.
Over the next twelve minutes Lindner and McGregor got shots off in what was otherwise a defensive sequence, but both of their shots failed to get past Waite. Wade had one more opportunity in the 89th minute to help the Huskies snatch a victory from a draw, but his shot missed the net and sent this contest into extra time.
The first overtime period belonged to the Monmouth Hawks, who had already tied a contest this season. Three minutes in, Lindner had a great chance out front to put this game away, but he missed the net. Two minutes later, Tomas had a chance of his own to end this contest, but Waite came up with the critical save.
On the other end, UConn had one great chance to end this game. Sophomore Jayden Reid had a great shot out front, but it was saved by Murray and the contest would require the other overtime period.
Three minutes into that period, Leveque got the crowd on the edge of their seats, ready to celebrate a great win, but his shot went up top and missed the net. Despite that miss, everything changed three minutes later.
In the 106th minute of the game, UConn was given a free kick following a tough foul from Callum Ferguson. Wade set up to take the kick, knowing that this would be the best chance the Huskies would get the entire game. Wade sent his shot to the right, but Murray was right there to stop it. Unlike other chances though, the ball was rebounded right to Chime, who buried the game-winner.
The place went crazy, everyone celebrated like the team had just won the World Cup. Chime, who had three shots on goal including the goalazzo, told the UConn athletic website that “I was going to take one chance … It fell to me, and it went in, I’m so happy.” In terms of the result of the contest, Chime stated that “It’s a massive result for us, we had chances all night and were finally able to get a winner.”
For Chime, it was his third goal of his young career, and it sealed the Huskies’ 1-0 victory in what was a defensive contest highlighted by several great scoring chances on either end of the pitch.
UConn had 23 shots overall while Monmouth had just nine. Both goaltenders had an outstanding game as Waite came up with five huge saves and his second clean sheet of the year while Murray garnered eight before conceding Chime’s game winner.
The Huskies (2-1-0) are back in action tomorrow, Sept. 14, against the Yale Bulldogs at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium with kickoff between these two alpha dogs scheduled for 7:00 p.m. The game can be accessed via FloSports.