The University of Connecticut men’s soccer team will return to Storrs after kicking off their Big East schedule this past Saturday against Butler.
The Big East opener did not go UConn’s way. The Huskies (3-2-0, 0-1-0 Big East) lost another close contest 1-0, this time to the Butler Bulldogs despite multiple chances to equalize the contest throughout an aggressive second half.
Despite this heartbreaking result, the Huskies offense has shown their might through five games this season. Freshman Okem Chime has lived up to his potential, as he leads the team in goals with three, and his 11 shots on goal are second on the team. The team leader is sophomore stud Moussa Wade. Although he has no goals yet, he has had a remarkable number of chances and has picked up three assists along the way.
Then there’s senior Dominic Laws and sophomore Giancarlo Vaccaro. Both picked up their first goal of the season against Yale and will look to dominate against another Ivy League school. Laws’ 11 shots are tied for second with Chime while Vaccaro has only four shots but has tried to make the most of them as much as possible.
Speaking of domination against an Ivy League institution, the midfield will be led by a sophomore who knows how to handle the smart gameplay they bring. Leading them is Big East honor roll member Jayden Reid, who garnered a goal and three assists against Yale last Tuesday. Reid was able to add to his shot total last time and is now up to seven shots on the season, making him a reliable option to try and find the net.
Reid continues to make his case to be a starter, but right now, the midfield group is loaded. It starts with senior Felix Meltzer, whose two shots on Saturday were his first of the season, freshman Mateo Leveque, who has a goal and an assist to back up his strong start and junior captain Ahdan Tait. Together, they create great plays that have the potential to be highlight reels day in and day out.
In the backfield, there’s freshman Bjorn Nikolajewski, who registered the only shot on goal in Saturday’s loss, freshman Vactor Guillaume and sophomore Thomas Decottignies. Together, the three will look to continue their physical style of defense to create more scoring chances out front.
The Huskies have relied on goalkeeper Jahmali Waite all season long. Although he picked up the loss Saturday, Waite has looked incredible through five games this season. He has allowed two goals and made 12 saves with three clean sheets to go with them. He continues to make a strong case as one of the best goaltenders in the Big East and is a key reason the Huskies have kept their opponents off the board.
Then there’s Dartmouth University from New Hampshire. The Big Green (0-3-0) enter Storrs coming off a brutal loss of their own.
They last played on Wednesday, Sept. 15, losing a 2-1 heartbreaker to the UMass Minutemen. It hasn’t been an easy start to the season for the Big Green, who will be playing their fourth consecutive road game.
They too get great chances to score, and it all starts with their three goal scorers, freshman midfielder Ben Jenkins, junior midfielder Trevor Gee and senior defenseman Matt Pickering. Although their forward group has no goals, that should not count out this team because it is still unknown what their midfield or defense can bring to the table.
Jenkins picked up his first career goal against UMass and knows how to make the shots he needs to and find the back of the net. Gee is another name to look out for in a very potent midfield. The other key playmakers include freshman Kristian Feed, senior Mothibi Penn-Kekana and sophomore Tom Collins, as they all have the potential to fool you with some incredible moves. It will be a true test of the midfielders, and the winner of this game will have a better midfield overall.
But let’s not forget about the attack position. Junior Clayton Molter is tied for the team lead in shots with Jenkins (five) and is looking to pick up his first goal of the season. He and junior David Alino will look to try as hard as they can to find the back of the net. If they can get some help from the midfield, then there is a chance they will do just that.
On the defensive side, senior Jordan Bailon has one of two assists this season (the other belongs to Jenkins) and has the experience needed to run the back field like a professor teaching a lecture. He is joined by sophomore Daniel Coons, freshman Louis Weisdorf, senior Garrett Scott and senior Ohad Yahalom. This defense will look to put up a clinic against a hot Husky offense.
Finally, there is senior goaltender Alex Budnik, who has played two games and allowed five goals while making 11 saves so far. Budnik will have to deal with two key factors throughout this game in the goal patrol and the attacking offense and will look to silence both in a 90-minute match.
Dartmouth averages one goal per game, compared to UConn’s 1.60 GPG. The shots per game sway heavily in UConn’s favor, at 14.4 shots per game compared to Dartmouth’s 9.3. Look for the Huskies to use the shot count to their advantage as they try to find several ways to get the ball to the back of the net.
The Huskies lead the all-time series 26-15-4, and they will look to earn their 27th win against Dartmouth at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium at 7 p.m tonight. The game can be accessed on FloSports, with live stats provided by Statbroadcast.