With hopes to change their misfortunes on the road and in Big East play, the UConn men’s soccer team took their talents to West Orange, New Jersey on Wednesday night, taking on rival Seton Hall. The Pirates have been mediocre to start this season, going 5-5-3 in their early season slate, only notching one conference win of their own on the road in Chicago against DePaul last week.
Both offenses struggled from the start, with foul and offside calls continuing to plague both teams and aid their respective defenses. It took 15 minutes for either side to record a shot, with Seton Hall breaking the seal with JP Marin recording the first semblance of a Pirate offensive attack. Early foul calls on UConn’s star Okem Chime led to a quick substitution from Coach Ray Reid, bringing in Scott Testori halfway through the first half. UConn and Seton Hall traded shot opportunities shortly after, with Felix Metlzer and Andrea Borg attempting to create an attack on the offensive end for their respective squads, but to no avail. Mateo Leveque followed this up with a shot of his own, but UConn and Seton Hall entered the break knotted in a 0-0 scoreless tie.
Leveque came out of the break with the same intensity with hopes to put the Huskies ahead five minutes into the second half, but the Seton Hall defense stood strong, maintaining their aggressive and effective defensive approach on their home turf. The two sides traded fouls back and forth in a physical second half that matched the intensity of the first 45 minutes, with both UConn and Seton Hall having an even amount of calls going against them in a game that both offenses could not seem to break through in. The Pirates had a succession of opportunities in a row, but the shots from Denis Kelmendi and Mans Saebbo could not put the home team ahead, with the score remaining 0-0 going into the late minutes of the second half.
The momentum looked to switch in UConn’s favor as the minutes dwindled down, forcing Seton Hall goalkeeper Andreas Nota to get off the line and make some plays for the Pirates, saving shots from Chime and Thomas Decottignies to aid the effort in sending this game to overtime. However, Ben Awashie had plans of his own for the visiting Huskies.
The sophomore from Ghana took the feed from Leveque in the 89th minute and put it in the back of the net for UConn, a clutch offensive breakthrough that saw both teams struggling to muster a goal throughout the duration of the game. This was only the third shot on goal for the Huskies, matching Seton Hall, with both teams notching 6 shots in total in a defensive battle. Goalkeeper Jahmali Waite was essential in his role to keep the Pirates off the scoreboard, turning away any semblance of hope of Seton Hall scoring a goal of their own. Awashie’s goal was the only score in this game, as the Huskies went on the road and picked up a crucial conference win that will help build momentum for the home stretch of the 2021 season. The win moves UConn to 6-4-2 on the season, improving their conference record to 2-3-2. Seton Hall falls to 5-6-3 on their season, and 1-5-1 in conference play.
Up next for Seton Hall are three straight road games to conclude the regular season, shipping out to Omaha on Saturday night to take on Creighton. For UConn, they conclude their mini road trip with a date with Providence on Saturday, with hopes to win three out of their last four and notch their third conference victory of the season, battling a Friar squad that has had a good amount of success, with a 4-1-2 Big East record, at a mark of 8-2-3 overall.