The University of Connecticut men’s soccer team continues its four-game conference homestand with a contest against another classic Big East foe: the Villanova Wildcats.
The Huskies (4-3-1, 0-2-1 Big East) tied last Saturday’s contest 1-1 after taking the St. John’s Red Storm to double overtime. The goal patrol played a huge part in that game and will look to be a critical factor against the Wildcats.
One of the studs behind that draw on Saturday was Big East Honor Roll member Jayden Reid, who’s equalizing goal in the 24th minute kept the crowd on their feet for most of the contest. Reid knows how to produce; his two goals are second on the team, his four assists are tied for the team lead and his eight points lead the pack.
Another key part of the Husky offense is sophomore Moussa Wade, who’s four assists are tied with Reid for the lead. Wade always contributes, as proven by his team-leading 23 shots, and has a goal to show for his astounding efforts.
There’s also freshman Okem Chime up front, whose three goals are leading the team. He has been taking great chances with 15 shots, good enough for third on the team. Chime’s eight shots on goal lead the team, and he has a great opportunity to pick up his fourth career goal with a breakout game against the Wildcats.
To wrap up the forward group, sophomore Giancarlo Vaccaro and freshman Scott Testori, who have a goal each, have been getting some great playing time and provide valuable minutes off the bench whenever they are needed to fill in.
In addition to Reid in the midfield, there is freshman Mateo Leveque, who has a goal and two assists on 17 shots thus far. Look for him, junior captain Ahdan Tait, sophomore Ben Awashie (one assist) and senior captain Felix Metzler to be contributing on offense and defense throughout the entire contest. They’ve been doing a tremendous job thus far keeping possession in the midfield and will turn it up one notch against their rivals.
Defensively, sophomore Thomas Decottignes, who set up some great opportunities on Saturday, leads a very physical group into battle. Aided by freshmen Guillame Vactor (one goal and a good defensively play in the 10th minute) and Bjorn Nikolajewski (one shot on goal on four shots), the defense will aim to keep the Wildcat offense at bay with a flurry of clean tackles and slides that give the Husky offense several chances.
Another key contributor from Saturday’s draw was goaltender Jahmali Waite. The Philadelphia native has been solid thus far, allowing just eight goals in eight games while making 17 saves. Going up against a school from his hometown, Waite will look to pick up his fifth clean sheet of the year by continuing to make fantastic plays that keep the ball out of the net.
This should be a wild game, both for Waite and for Villanova.
The Wildcats (7-2-0, 3-0-0 Big East) are coming off a 1-0 victory against the Xavier Musketeers that saw them score early in the first half on a beautifully set up pass and a great finish out front. This is the Wildcats’ best start to Big East play since 2004, when they went 5-3-2 against the Big East.
The offense has had two significant contributors thus far in junior forward Lyam Mackinnon and freshman forward Balthi Sanders. Both forwards have three goals on the season with Mackinnon racking up more points overall with one extra assist (Mackinnon has two, Sanders has one). The primary attention falls to Mackinnon, who’s 36 shots lead the team by an overwhelming margin.
There’s also senior forward Seidu Shamsudeen (two goals) and sophomore forward Akinjide Awujo, the lone goal scorer from Saturday’s victory. Both of those guys know how to go out in front of the net, so the main focus for the Husky defense will be to contain the middle of the attacking zone as to prevent the Wildcats from taking any big chances.
Down the middle, the Wildcats have five guys they can trust. Junior Anthony Dragisics (one assist), junior Josh Belluz, sophomore Dominic Cyriacks (one goal and one assist), junior Gray Ricca (two assists) and sophomore Jorge Garcia (one goal and one assist). The game plan is simple: Find a way to take advantage of the middle of the playing field. When the midfield is taken over, find a way to take the attacking zone by placing the ball out in front.
Big East Defensive Player of the Week Viktor Benediktsson’s strong contributions will be something to look out for on defense. He is the main man in the defensive scheme and will shut offenses down. Sophomore Jack Bonas and junior Anthony Cousins Jr. wrap up the defensive corps. Together, their physical efforts are paying off as they have yet to concede a goal in Big East play.
The other reason that is the case is because of senior goaltender Carson Williams. In eight games played, Williams has allowed seven goals, all before conference play started. He has three shutouts and 17 saves to his name so far and with a hot Husky offense in town, will look to improve those numbers substantially.
Both teams have produced offensively. UConn has scored 10 goals while allowing four, Villanova has scored 11 while conceding eight. Both teams know how to play physically as well, as both teams have a combined 222 fouls. Between hot offenses and scrappy play, this game should be one that both teams will remember for a long time in their storied history.
The Huskies lead the all-time series 13-3-1 and will look to pick up win No. 14 tonight at 7 p.m. EDT. Access is available to the game via FloSports with live stats provided by StatBroadcast.