Following a hard-fought 1-1 draw in their two-day affair with Creighton last weekend, the UConn men’s soccer team will look for their first win in three weeks this Saturday night, when they return home to take on Big East foe Butler.
The Huskies (2-3-1) are amidst a stretch of three consecutive matches without a win, losing to URI and then No. 15 Syracuse before tying Creighton last weekend. Despite the recent skid, Connecticut put together an impressive effort to hold the Blue Jays to a single goal after getting outscored 8-1 in their last two contests, despite subpar playing conditions. Head Coach Chris Gbandi commented favorably on his team’s most recent performance.
“I thought the mentality of the group was good… Creighton is an unbelievable team… I thought [that] we did a good job dealing with them… We got a hard-fought [goal] on the road and now we look forward to the next one.”
A player to keep an eye on for UConn will be graduate student Frantz Pierrot. Pierrot has become a focal point of UConn’s offense in his first season with the team. The Merrimack transfer leads his squad in shots attempted and shots on goal by a wide margin, and has connected on two goals, tied for the team lead. He accounted for Connecticut’s lone score against Creighton after sophomore Scott Testori’s shot was deflected in the 20th minute, allowing Pierrot to collect the rebound and knock it into the wide-open goal. The Haiti native will look to stay hot against Butler in a match where Connecticut will take points any way they can get them.
Another key component for the Huskies will be the performance of sophomore Mateo Leveque. UConn’s sole All-Big East Preseason member, Leveque has picked up where he left off after a strong freshman campaign. He currently leads the team in points (six) and assists (four) along with one goal. With five shots on goal in his team’s two contests prior to their match against Creighton, Leveque has had plenty of opportunity to increase his scoring output. One of the most reliable playmakers on his team, look for Leveque to try to add to his season total on Saturday.
The Huskies have been playing without junior Moussa Wade, who suffered an injury celebrating a goal against NJIT on Sept. 2. Wade is tied for the team lead in goals scored this season with two despite playing only two full games. An important piece to their offense, Connecticut will be happy to insert Wade back into their lineup once he becomes eligible to return. Little is known about the nature of the injury, but there has been speculation that Wade could be forced to miss the remainder of the season.
Butler (4-2-1) was voted the fifth-best of the 11 Big East teams by the Preseason Coaches’ Poll. That assessment has carried over into the season, as the latest NCAA Ratings Power Index currently ranks the Bulldogs as the sixth-best team in the conference. Despite the modest ranking, Butler has shown to be a formidable opponent all season. They defeated No. 4 Marshall on Aug. 29 with a nail-biting 1-0 advantage and led No. 16 Indiana before allowing two second half goals to the Hoosiers. The Bulldogs had been a ranked team themselves, reaching as high as No. 12 in early September, though back-to-back losses knocked them down the rankings list. They proved how all-around talented their team is in their last match, a 9-0 victory over Lindenwood that saw six different Bulldogs tally a goal.
One player to keep an eye on for the contest is senior Wilmer Cabrera, Jr. The preseason Offensive Player of the Year for the Big East, Cabrera was one of 38 college soccer players named to the 2022 Hermann Trophy Watch List by United Soccer Coaches prior to this season. The Hermann Trophy is the nation’s highest individual honor and recognizes the National Player of the Year. From Bogotá, Colombia, Cabrera is a two-time All-Region honoree who led Butler in goals (five) and overall points (12) in 2021. Two of his goals were game-winners, and he was also credited with two assists on the season. He finished the Big East portion of the season fifth in goals (three) and eighth in points (eight), earning a nod to the 2021 All-Big East First Team, his second such honor.
In addition to Cabrera, the Huskies will have to deal with Palmer Ault. Ault, a freshman from Noblesville, Indiana, has been a pleasant surprise for Butler this season. He leads the Bulldogs in goals (four) and points (10) and is tied for the team lead in assists (2). He is fresh off an elite performance against Lindenwood in which he scored his team’s initial two goals and then assisted on the subsequent two to help Butler expand their lead. Prior to his time in college, Ault was a three-time All-State First Team selection in high school and was chosen as the 2021 Indiana Soccer Coaches Association State Player of the Year. He was also twice voted to the United Soccer Coaches All-America Team on top of his club accolades.
Kick-off is set for Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Connecticut. The game will be broadcast live on FloSports with live stats provided by StatBroadcast.