The talent among the top Big East teams has pushed the UConn men’s soccer team to down to the wire battles in the first handful of games of the 2021 season. During Wednesday night’s matchup with the Villanova Wildcats in Storrs, it was more of the same for the Huskies.
Villanova came into Morrone fresh off two conference wins, defeating Butler at home and going on the road and beating Xavier, both with scores of 1-0. UConn played its second home conference game in a row, dueling with St. John’s last week to a tune of 1-1.
There was a chance for UConn early on — a common theme throughout the squad’s first eight games. Felix Metzler received a great feed from Freshman Mateo Leveque seven minutes into the game, but Villanova goalkeeper Carson Williams made a stop at the goal line to keep the Huskies off the scoreboard. That was the only legitimate opportunity for either team for a majority of the first half as the defensive approaches for both Villanova and UConn took pressure off their respective goalkeepers.
With ten minutes to go until the half, the quiet offenses began to wake up. Villanova put pressure on goalkeeper Jahmali Waite with a 2-on-1 opportunity that forced the graduate student from Philly to make a stop to keep the Huskies level. Right before the half, one of the various senior-freshman connections that UConn has seen this season almost converted to give the Huskies the lead, but freshman Giancarlo Vaccaro sent the feed from senior Dom Laws wide of the net, taking the Big East foes into the half scoreless.
It did not take long for more opportunities to appear for UConn. Five minutes into the second half, Metzler again knocked at the door of Villanova’s goal, but again could not find the back of the net. This shot was one of four the senior made to put the Huskies ahead; one was on target, and another was again pushed wide in the 83rd minute. UConn had thirteen opportunities to break the drought, with five of them being on target, but Villanova’s defense, which came into the night with no goals allowed in its last two games, held strong, along Williams, thanks to his heroic efforts in saving all five shots. Villanova possessed similar offensive ineptitude, except for a shot from Luke Pompilano that Waite saved with his foot.
The game went into overtime scoreless after a grueling two halves. The first period did not see much offensive action, with both defensives keeping their poise. However, disaster struck for the Huskies minutes into the second overtime period.
Akinjide Awujo controlled the ball into the Huskies’ backfield and drew a penalty kick for the Wildcats. From there, it was all in the hands of Lyam MacKinnon. The junior silenced the UConn crowd, putting his penalty shot past Waite to spoil the goalkeeper’s dazzling performance and give Villanova a hard-fought 1-0 road victory — its third consecutive clean sheet. Villanova maintained its scoreless streak against conference opponents, shutting out all four opponents the team has played thus far.
Villanova improved to 8-2 on the season, 4-0 in conference play, and 4-1 on the road. For UConn, it was another crushing one goal loss, as the Huskies still look for their first conference victory. The team has lost three of the first four games and drew with St. John’s last week. This was Villanova’s first ever win in Storrs, as UConn has dominated the series all time. The Huskies have won 13 of the first 17 matchups between the two teams dating back to the ‘90s.
Villanova returns home to host St. John’s on Saturday with the hope of keeping its streak alive. UConn, on the other hand, will have another chance to win at home next week and garner that elusive first conference win. The Huskies will take on the Marquette Golden Eagles on October 13 at 7 p.m.