Early on in Monday night’s contest, a cross was sent in right by UConn goalkeeper Jayden Hibbert. Hibbert jumped, attempting a routine punch of the ball to clear it. He missed an opportunity for strong contact, with the wet ball slipping past his fist.
Another UConn defender, positioned well, attempted a volley clearance. He too saw the ball slip past his foot. With Hibbert taken away from the net via his momentum, the ball was perfectly placed for Syracuse’s Lorenzo Boselli, who found an easy open-net goal to put the Orange ahead 3-0.
It just wasn’t the Huskies’ night.
Amidst consistent rain all night, the UConn men’s soccer team was unable to extend their winning streak on Monday, falling to No. 15 Syracuse by a score of 5-0.
“I think you give Syracuse a lot of credit,” said Huskies head coach Chris Gbandi postgame. “I thought it was a game of chances, they had some good opportunities and they put (the game) away. We had quite a few and then we didn’t put it away… that’s the game of soccer.”
The game ended up being quite a back-and-forth affair, with both UConn and Syracuse getting their fair share of opportunities to score and possess the ball. In fact, the Huskies had more shots than Syracuse and had a higher time of possession. The tone was set early on, however, that the Orange had better chances at the net. Throughout the game, the visitors had plenty of breakaways, showing off their abilities through counterattacks. Some of their strikes came when the Huskies least expected it, giving themselves higher percentage looks. At the buzzer, Connecticut had 17 shots, seven of them on target, while the Orange had 11 shots with seven on target.
The Orange’s first goal came just 15 minutes into the contest, when Noah Singelmann received a wide-open ball in the corner of the 18-yard box. Instead of shooting or crossing it, he played a low ball to his teammate, who redirected it to the foot of Colin Biros, striking it right by UConn’s Hibbert in goal.
Syracuse struck yet again in the 28th minute thanks to a perfect through ball from senior forward Levonte Johnson, giving sophomore forward Nathan Opoku a 1-on-1 with Hibbert. Opoku had perfect placement, giving the visitors an early two-goal lead.
One of the Huskies’ best opportunities to score occurred early in the second half, when sophomore midfielder Mateo Leveque received a ball on the ground from the 18-yard box. Leveque delivered a strong one-touch strike that ricocheted off the far post. UConn’s Okem Chime was able to secure the rebound and put the ball in the net, but an offsides call took back the goal.
Things got particularly interesting in the 71st minute, when a fight broke out between the two sides, forcing the referee and some of the players to break up the physicality. In the aftermath, UConn’s Christos Charalambous received a red card, leaving his team to play down a man for the rest of the match. Also receiving a yellow card was Syracuse’s Giona Leibold, who was on the bench at the time.
After the cards were handed out, the Huskies started to collapse, allowing a couple of goals within a few minutes of each other to extend their deficit to five goals. The fourth goal saw a 2-on-1 breakaway opportunity for the Orange, peppering Hibbert with a couple of shots before finally finishing on one of the rebounds.
The Huskies had another solid opportunity to score just before Gbandi decided to give the bench a few minutes of play. A well-placed lob pass in the 80th minute found the head of an unmarked Soren Ilsoe, who missed just wide right.
Syracuse did a great job holding their back line up, particularly in the second half. Every time the Huskies were looking for a through ball, the entire defense stepped up, drawing an offsides call. By the end of the game, UConn had accumulated eight offsides calls to the Orange’s one.
One notable absence from this game was junior forward Moussa Wade, who leads the team in scoring over the still-young season. Wade went down with a non-contact injury after a celebration of his goal early in Friday night’s contest against NJIT.
The loss drops the Huskies to 2-2-0 on the year, while the Orange rise to 3-0-1 and extend their undefeated start to the season. Up next for UConn is a Saturday night clash at the University of Rhode Island.