No rest for the elated. Fresh off a thrilling 1-0 overtime victory, the University of Connecticut men’s soccer team will face the Yale Bulldogs in a dogfight Tuesday evening to determine Connecticut’s top dog.
The Huskies (2-1-0) are not going to let just two days of rest keep them in the offensive doghouse, especially after they put up 23 shots against Monmouth on Saturday — a spectacular contest captivated by a golden goal in the 106th minute.
That golden goal was scored by freshman Okem Chime, who will look to build off his incredible rookie campaign so far. In three games, Chime has three goals and has proven himself to be the dominant scorer on this team. At the forward position, Chime has an incredible chance to get the ball into the net, as his ten shots are tied for the team lead with sophomore Moussa Wade.
Speaking of freshmen, the other goal scorer this season is Mateo Leveque. Leveque has a goal and an assist to his name, and he has helped define how this group has been a huge fetch for the Huskies. The other important pieces of this freshman class play strong defense, as Bjorn Nikolajewski and Guillaume Victor have started every game thus far and look like a strong duo in the Huskies’ backfield.
In addition to Chime and Wade upfront, sophomore Giancarlo Vaccaro and senior Dominic Laws can either fool the opposing defense with their incredible moves or set up a great pass that ultimately finds its way into the net.
Down the middle, the team has a veteran pair led by senior Djimon Johnson and junior captain Ahdan Tait, who have set up some great passes of their own and brought a balanced attack to both sides of the ball.
To fill out the 4-3-3 formation, sophomore Thomas Decottignies, who has an assist of his own, has provided valuable playing time out of the back position. His prowess has helped Nikolajewski and Victor settle into the collegiate game nicely. It is their defensive efforts that have limited UConn’s opponents to just one goal so far this season.
But defense is not the only reason the Huskies shut out both Bryant and Monmouth. Graduate student and goaltender Jahmali Waite has conceded just one goal and made 11 marvelous saves, which have garnered a lot of howling applause from the goal patrol and the home crowd alike. His leadership has made him a critical player on the team, and he knows how to control the traffic out front.
Rolling over to Yale, these Bulldogs have three alphas of their own that the Huskies will try to contain like a pack of wolves out for blood.
Yale (2-1-0) is coming off a home-opening 4-1 win against UMass-Lowell in which where junior forward Paolo Carroll picked up his second and third goals of the season just three minutes apart. Carroll enters this game with a two-game goal streak, as he also had the only goal in Yale’s loss to Villanova.
Second, there is sophomore forward Eric Lagos. Like Carroll, Lagos has a brace of his own, which came against the Fairfield Stags when he scored a goal in each half of a thrilling 3-2 victory. Lagos is tied with Carroll for the team lead, as he also scored his third goal against the Riverhawks this past Saturday.
Finally, there’s sophomore forward Kahveh Zahiroleslam. He does not have a brace, but he did pick up one goal in the wins over Fairfield and UMass-Lowell. Simply put, when either Zahiroleslam or Carroll score, the Bulldogs are going to win.
Put them together and you have the literal definition of Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades’ home , the underworld. If the Huskies have any chance to slay this three-headed beast, they will have to limit every one of those Bulldogs from having a critical impact in this game.
Carroll knows how to finish a play and can consistently turn a redirected pass to a goal. The key here is to make sure he does not get that second chance, because he will use it to his advantage. Lagos knows how to bring it home on the header, and he brings a strong attack up front. The best way to keep him off the score sheet is to make sure he doesn’t have the opportunity to put the shot away out in front.
In addition, there is Zahiroleslam, who knows how to put the game on ice. And when that happens, the opposing team has little chance of rallying for a comeback against the Bulldogs. By not giving the Bulldogs a big lead, Zahiroleslam will not have as many opportunities to put the team to sleep.
Looking at the rest of the Bulldog pack, junior defenseman Sigfus Aranson and junior midfielder Jules Oberg can set up some great plays for the Bulldogs (both have two assists). Sophomore defenseman Jake Schaffer (one assist) knows how to apply the pressure, while first-year studs TJ Prestus and Ryan Cote have been incredible sparkplugs for this offense.
If the Huskies want to get anything in the net, they will have to go up against junior goaltender Elian Haddock. He might not have a clean sheet yet, but he has 18 saved of 41 shots, including several clutch saves when they mattered most.
UConn’s going to have its paws full, as Yale averages 12.3 shots per game with a .459 on goal percentage, but if they manage to keep their cool and not make any big mistakes, then the opportunistic Huskies will put up an incredible fight that should go no further than a 90-minute showdown.
According to the UConn Athletics website, this will be the 74th recorded meeting between the two schools. Yale won the last Nutmeg Dogfight by a score of 3-0, ending a stretch in which UConn had won the previous nine in a row. The Huskies will look to exact their revenge as a pack tonight in search of their third win of the season.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium, the home of the goal patrol. Livestreaming access will be available via FloSports, and live stats will be provided from stat broadcast. These links are accessible through the UConn Athletics website.