The University of Connecticut men’s soccer team shut out the DePaul Blue Demons, 1-0, on Saturday night at Ray Reid Field at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium for the team’s second consecutive conference victory.
The win came on a night where the soccer pitch was officially renamed Ray Reid Field at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in honor of former men’s soccer head coach Ray Reid. Reid, who spent 33 years as a head coach, was a part of UConn’s soccer program for 25 years.
Freshman Nicolas Tomerius got the Huskies offense started when he fired the game’s first shot in the seventh minute just inside of the Blue Demons’ goal box, but his attempt with his left foot dribbled past the right side of the net. Tomerius once again dribbled the ball just inside DePaul’s 18 and put UConn’s first shot on goal, but his attempt fell into the hands of Blue Demons’ goalkeeper Gandhi Cruz.
In the 13th minute, Connecticut sophomore Bjorn Nikolajewski came up with a loose ball and thread a cross from the corner in front of the goal. Sophomore Scott Testori elevated for the pass and attempted to head it into the goal, but the pass proved to be just a bit too high and his deflection landed on top of the DePaul net.
In the 24th minute, Cruz had secured possession of the ball inside of the DePaul goalbox and dumped it off to one of his defensemen teammates. However, an errant pass by the defender was intercepted by Connecticut sophomore Okem Chime, who recovered the ball in the DePaul goalbox. Surrounded by defenders, Chime penetrated towards the left side of the goal before tapping his shot past Cruz and into the fair-side of the net to put the Huskies on the board, 1-0. The goal was the third of the season for Chime and the seventh of his career.
Connecticut would continue to create opportunities to expand its lead as the half continued. UConn did not take its foot off the gas pedal as it got six more shots after the Chime goal. In the 31st minute, graduate student Frantz Pierrot received a pass from freshman Eli Conway and directed a header on goal, but Cruz was able to react quickly to keep the ball from crossing the goal line. With just over 10 seconds remaining in the half, sophomore Mateo Leveque had a shot attempt in front of the DePaul 18, but his sweeping attempt towards the right corner of the goal was saved once again by a diving Cruz. The Huskies dominated the shot attempts in the first half, 13-0, as the Connecticut defense stepped up to not allow DePaul a single shot.
The second half of action proved to be much less eventful as lots of time was spent in the middle of the pitch. UConn managed to control possession for a majority of the period in order to cement the shutout victory, with timely saves by goalie Michael Stone paying major dividends.
“I thought [that this] was probably our best performance of the season,” head coach Chris Gbandi said following the win. “The guys [played] with the intensity that we always talk about. We created a lot of chances … on a night that we’re celebrating Ray Reid and his legacy, for us to get a 1-0 victory … I’m just so proud of the guys.”
After dominating the shot attempt category in the first half, the Huskies ran away from DePaul in shot attempts for the entire game, ultimately out-shooting the Blue Demons 19-3. Of Connecticut’s 19 shots, four were on-goal, while one of DePaul’s three were on-goal. A combined 14 fouls were committed by both clubs, with the Huskies committing 12 and the Blue Demons committing two. Connecticut won the corner kick battle, recording four to DePaul’s one. With the victory, the Huskies’ move to 6-6-2 on the season and 3-3-2 in Big East play. After spending much of this season amongst the bottom of the Big East standings, Connecticut’s two most recent victories have elevated the squad to fifth in the conference. DePaul, meanwhile, moves to 4-5-6 with the loss and 1-3-4 in conference play. The Blue Demons are currently No. 9 of the 11 teams in the Big East.
The Huskies’ next game will come Wednesday against Stonehill College. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. from Ray Reid Field at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn. The game can be streamed online using FloSports, with live updates provided by StatBroadcast.