Men’s Soccer: Huskies suffer first loss, shutout by Sharks’ stellar defense

Uconn Men’s Soccer struggled to take down LIU’s defense and faced the repercussions.

Long Island University visited the UConn Huskies this past Friday for the first ever matchup between the two teams. 

Coming off of a big 4-0 win on Sunday against the Holy Cross Crusaders, the Huskies looked to carry that momentum into Friday’s match against the LIU Sharks. That feeling was short-lived as LIU scored almost right away. 

Forward Ben Assane Fall scored in just the tenth minute for LIU, putting them up 1-0. Fall blew past unsuspecting Husky defender Max Gummesson then goalkeeper Jayden Hibbert, allowing for an easy empty net score. The forward is just a year removed from an ACL injury yet contributed to both of the Sharks’ goals. He’ll look to be the centerpiece of the LIU offensive attack going forward. 

LIU later added to their lead in the second half with a goal from Emil Jaaskelainen assisted by Fall. With the ball in the box, Fall passed to Jaaskelainen whose shot barely escaped the diving arms of Hibbert, increasing the Sharks’ lead to two.  

The story of the game, however, was the Sharks’ defense. LIU was stellar throughout the match, squandering every chance UConn had on goal. Despite most of the game being played on LIU’s half, the Huskies were never able to capitalize. UConn finished the game with 18 shots, 11 more than LIU, none of which were able to break the seal. One thing to note: only four of the 18 shots ended up being shots on goal. UConn also ended the game with four offside calls against them. 

LIU goalie Eoin Gawronski picked up a clean sheet, saving four in the process. Gawronski, a former Temple University Owl, earned his first shutout as a member of the Sharks and has 12 saves across the team’s first three games.  

Sharks coach Michael Mordocco is very familiar with the Huskies after playing for them from 1998-2001 and returning as an assistant coach for four years from 2010-2014. Mordocco was a member of the UConn team that won the NCAA National Championship in 2000 and played a vital role in former MLS No. 1 overall pick Andre Blake’s tenure with the Huskies.  

After the game, Mordocco was understandably proud of his team’s performance and recognized his history with the Connecticut program. “This is certainly a very, very big win for me personally and for our program,” Mordocco said. 

UConn head coach Chris Gbandi, another member of the 2000 championship-winning team, spoke highly about LIU postgame. 

“I thought the game was there for us but then you got to give a lot of credit to LIU,” he noted. “I thought they did a good job, […] sitting back and then find a way to get a goal to have us chase and that’s what they did.” 

UConn had numerous chances in the box that they couldn’t take advantage of. Forward Lucas Almeida led the team with two shots on goal. Almeida, a freshman, had two notable opportunities to score including a great chance at the far post in the 65th minute that was unfortunately kicked right into the arms of Gawronski.  

Sophomore Pierce Bateson matched Almeida’s shot total with four of his own while Moussa Wade, Kwame Adu-Gyamfi and Adil Iggoute generated two shots each. 

While it was a physical game between the two teams, only two yellow cards were given out. LIU’s Joshua Saavedra and Gummesson both received warnings but there were no ejections. 

The suffocating defense of the Sharks and the mistakes by the Huskies ultimately landed UConn in the loss column for the first time this season. Just a few days after an offensive explosion for the Huskies, UConn had no answers for the Sharks.  

Connecticut will look to right the ship tonight against Siena College in their third straight game in Storrs. Siena, currently winless on the young season, will look to break their three-game losing skid. This marks yet another first-time matchup for the Huskies in back-to-back games.   

The Saints have only scored once in their three contests this season, that being a Jack Mendrysa goal against Lafayette in a 4-1 loss. They’ll take on No. 1 Syracuse next Tuesday on the road.  

UConn will host Siena College at 7 p.m. at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium. The game is also available for streaming on FloSports. The theme for tonight’s game is high school night. 

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