Coming off a heartbreaking loss and a bye weekend, the University of Connecticut men’s soccer team returns to the pitch this week as they take on the Marquette Golden Eagles for the first time since 2012.
The Huskies (4-4-1, 0-3-1 Big East) had many opportunities to score against Villanova only to be put away on the PK. Despite being kept off the score sheet against their long-time rival, the offense has remained hot with several chances to boot, averaging over 13 shots per game while collecting over a goal a game.
The offense is led by freshman Okem Chime, who’s three goals and eight shots on goal lead the team. Chime has had limited chances as of late, but is nearing another breakout game, which he has the potential to put up against the Golden Eagles.
Opposing defenses must also worry about sophomore Moussa Wade, who has turned his team-leading 24 shots into one goal and four assists. Even with these numbers, he knows how to set up the chances that lead to strong plays in front of the net.
Sophomore Giancarlo Vaccaro (one goal), senior Dominic Laws (one goal) and freshman Scott Testori (one goal) have all played balanced roles on the attack and have contributed when called upon.
The hot Husky offense has some incredible support from one of the best midfield groups in the conference. The core is led by sophomore Jayden Reid (two goals and four assists), a massive contributor in the center of the field who has continually proved himself over the last month.
Support also comes from freshman Mateo Leveque (one goal and two assists), junior captain Ahdan Tait (three shots on goal), sophomore Ben Awashie (one assist) and senior captain Felix Metzler (seven shots). Opposing defenses like to focus on the strong attack, but the midfield has been an incredible contributor in every game.
In the backfield, senior Thomas Decottignies has been a stud, but he is temporarily out with an injury. In his place is sophomore Josh Morgan, who is in good hands as freshmen Bjorn Nikolajewski and Guillame Vactor, who has one goal, have started every game and limited the opposition to just six goals.
The other reason that number is relatively low is because of goaltender Jahmali Waite, one of the best goalies in the conference despite conceding the only goal in last Wednesday’s contest. In nine games, Waite has picked up 22 saves while conceding more than one goal just once. Waite makes dazzling saves day in and day out and has been a vocal leader for the Huskies this season.
With these pieces in place, the Huskies want to leave their mark against Marquette.
The Golden Eagles (5-5-1, 2-2-1 Big East) are coming off a big win against Creighton in which they put up two first-half goals and kept the ten-manned Blue Jays off the board for the entire second half.
The difference maker in that win against Creighton was Big East Honor Roll member Lukas Sunesson, who picked up a brace that put the Eagles on the board and then helped seal the deal. His five goals on the season and 11 points lead the team, and he has been a star factor in 11 games played.
The other goal scorer was freshman Beto Soto, who picked up goal number four to put him in second place on Marquette’s scoring chart while his 19 shots (10 on goal) lead the team. Look for both to go on the attack early and use their bag of trick plays to get around the defense and convert shots into goals.
Sophomore Christian Marquez, who has picked up one goal and one assist, wraps up the forward unit and will look to solidify his name as a starting winger in a very exciting contest.
Like the Huskies, Marquette brings a strong midfield that knows how to contribute on both ends of the field. It starts with true freshman Edrey Caceres, who has been the offense’s secret weapon with three goals and three assists to go alongside his 14 shots.
Junior Zyan Andrade also picked up an assist in Saturday’s victory, continuing to prove himself as an assist machine as he leads the team with a whopping five assists in addition to his one goal on the season. The Huskies must limit him if they want to stymie the Eagle offense.
Junior Alan Salmeron is a big defensive aspect and although he has no goals and no assists, he has not been a liability. His intensive physical play has led to him collecting three yellow cards.
The defense has been a critical factor for the Golden Eagles this season and sophomore Harvey Read has been at the forefront of that. Even when he is assigned to shut down the opposing attack, he still finds a way to score as he has two goals and an assist on the year.
Joining him in that backfield are junior Gabe Kash (one assist), true freshman Jonas Moen and sophomore Alex Mirsberger (10 shots). Like Read, all of them know how to play a very physical style of soccer as each player has at least one yellow card to their name. Even with the bookings, this group has held their own, shutting down the opposition whenever they get the chance to do so.
Once the Huskies get past the defense, the focus revolves around junior goaltender Chandler Hallwood. He has played in every game and has made 39 saves while conceding 16 goals. With the Husky offense hungry for a win, he is going to have to try his hardest to make sure UConn stays off the board.
The Huskies will look for their fifth win in the series tonight at 7 p.m. from Joseph J. Morrone Stadium. The game can be accessed via FloSports with live stats provided by StatBroadcast.