The UConn men’s soccer team downed the Holy Cross Crusaders in dominant fashion, winning 2-0 in front of a packed crowd at Joseph Morrone Stadium on Sunday night.
Junior forward Moussa Wade scored UConn’s initial goal on a free kick in the 20th minute of action. After leading 1-0 coming out of the half, graduate student and forward Frantz Pierrot recovered a free kick by sophomore Mateo Leveque near the Crusader’s goal and managed to find the net, extending the Huskies’ lead to two in minute 55. Leveque and junior Søren Ilsøe were each credited with an assist on the night.
Although the final score may not suggest a blowout win, UConn dominated possession of the ball in the final 30 minutes of action to officially put the game under wraps. The Husky defense stepped up big time and was a key piece in the team’s win, as goalkeeper Jayden Hibbert didn’t allow a goal on either of Holy Cross’ shots and recorded a save in the process. That’s correct — in 90 minutes of regulation, the Crusaders managed only two shots on the net all night as the Huskies were able to clamp down a weaker Holy Cross squad, which resulted in the team attempting a whopping 10 more shots than their opponent.
Over five thousand people, a large majority of which were UConn students, displayed their Husky Pride by supporting the soccer team the night before classes started, including the Goal Patrol making their long-awaited return to Morrone. The Goal Patrol, UConn soccer’s loyal support group, is known for making the lives of UConn opponents a living nightmare with their passion and relentlessness. Sunday was no exception, as the Goal Patrol made their presence felt and managed to keep both the Holy Cross players and casual UConn fans on their toes. Students are encouraged to join the Goal Patrol and continue to show their support for UConn soccer throughout the season.
With the victory, new head coach Chris Gbandi is now in the win column for the first time as the head honcho for the Huskies. Gbandi is a former professional player, though it’s most notable that he was once a UConn Husky himself between the 1998 and 2001 seasons. During his time at UConn, Gbandi was a three-time Hermann Trophy finalist and won the award in 2000, which is presented to the top male and female collegiate soccer players in the United States annually. He was drafted first overall in the 2002 MLS SuperDraft by the Dallas Burn, where he played up until the 2007 campaign. After that, Gbandi spent time with the Norwegian club FK Haugesund before returning to the United States to play for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Once his career on the field concluded, Gbandi became an assistant coach with UConn and earned his first head coaching gig with the Northeastern Huskies in 2016, where he stayed until he was hired by UConn on Dec. 17, 2021.
The Huskies now improve to 1-1 through the first two matches of the young season. The team hopes that this win is one of many after finishing last season with a bland overall record of 7-7-2, which included an underwhelming 2-6-2 effort in Big East conference play. Coming into this season ranked eighth of the 11 Big East teams on the annual preseason coach’s poll, a string of solid games with some wins thrown into the mix would bode extremely well for an evolving UConn squad. Their next game will take place this upcoming Friday at Morrone Stadium when the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders arrive in Storrs. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.