The UConn men’s soccer team continues their preseason journey with a friendly match against USL Championship team Hartford Athletic in their preseason campaign. The Huskies sought to defeat USL’s pro team at home.
From the start, UConn played an offensive-focused game against the Athletic defense, as noted by Okem Chime’s pressure near the goal box. Just 10 minutes into the game, the Huskies were inching close to an early goal, but the Athletic managed to prevent the Huskies from taking the lead. As the first half of the game continued to progress, Hartford’s Peter-Lee Vasell and Danny Barrera started to apply pressure to UConn’s defense with many near goals, putting Kyle Briere to work. After a back-and-forth during the first half, the teams entered halftime scoreless .
The second half was filled with controversial calls and moments that had spectators from both sides on edge. As seen in prior games, Hartford Athletic was the one to put pressure on their opponent’s defense. What many considered questionable calls began early in the first half when Hartford was awarded a free kick after a Hartford player fell to a successful tackle, which ended up as a missed shot over the crossbar. However, UConn finally saw progress through Scott Testori, as he put the Huskies on the board with a 68th-minute goal.
After Testori’s second-half goal, Hartford Athletic once again put the Huskies defense on alert as they started to play a more aggressive and physical game. Minutes after UConn took their lead, Hartford responded with a goal from forward Jeciel Cedeño. As the game was now equalized, the pressure was now on both teams to break the gridlock game at Morrone Stadium.
The final 10 minutes of the game were filled with gasps as fans got out of their seats watching both teams get many chances to give their side the lead. From the various corner kicks from Hartford to the Huskies’ incomplete passes that were surely heading towards the goal, the game ended in a 1-1 draw after an exhilarating end.
Throughout the game, many fans from both sides noted the questionable calls from the referees. Clear frustration was also seen from UConn’s head coach, Chris Gbandi, as the whistle kept being blown to many of the Huskies’ challenges. Furthermore, one Hartford fan kept shouting, “The league’s refs won’t be this kind to us!” Another takeaway from this game is the number of physical challenges Hartford placed on UConn, which put their defense to the test.
While both teams are only playing friendly matches for their preseason campaign, many things are on the line. The UConn men’s soccer team is looking to come back strong after losing their final two games last season. These preseason matches can be telling on the Huskies’ chances for next season in the Big East. Hartford is testing their new squad and players as their USL Pro Championship season is set to begin later this month. UConn continues its preseason campaign against Woodbridge at home and then away at Bentley University.