Men’s Soccer: Huskies best Mother Nature, defeat Manhattan 

University of Connecticut mens soccer plays against Manhattan College on Sept. 11, 2023 at Marrone Stadium on the UConn Storrs campus. The Huskies finished with a 3-0 win. Photos by Connor Sharp, Grab Photographer/The Daily Campus

The weather did not permit, but soccer was played anyways under the bright lights and heavy raindrops at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium at the Rizza Performance Center in Storrs, Conn. The Huskies made the most of the poor weather, rallying for a 3-0 victory over the Jaspers of Manhattan College. 

It did not take long for the Huskies to put points on the board. Three minutes after the opening kick, freshman Simon Staber cleared the ball out of Connecticut territory to sophomore Christian Dionne. Dionne dribbled past midfield before dumping the ball off to teammate Lucas Almeida for a two-on-two matchup. As he ran down the goal, Almeida sidestepped his primary defender to convert the score from short distance. It was the third goal of the season for the freshman who continues to carve out a role as a playmaker on Chris Gbandi’s offense. Dionne and Staber were credited with assists on the play. 

UConn held the upper hand in the possession battle over the first 15 minutes. Both Almeida and fellow freshman Ayoub Lajhar had opportunities around Manhattan’s goalbox but could not penetrate past the teeth of the defense. The Jaspers had a look at Connecticut’s goal in the 10th minute but Husky goalkeeper Jayden Hibbert made a sprawling stop save to deflect the ball away. A Manhattan player quickly recovered the loose ball and pinned the ball in the back of the net, but the potential score was nullified by an offsides call. 

The Huskies quickly extended their lead with a second goal in the 18th minute off of the leg of junior Scott Testori. On the play, the UConn defense managed a takeaway to initiate a breakaway at midfield. Ameida received the ball in the center of the field and poked it out to Lajhar just to the right of the Jaspers’ goalbox. Lajhar thread the needle and completed a cross pass to Testori, who ran the ball down and tapped the close shot through the posts in one effortless motion. Both Almeida and Lajhar assisted on the play, giving each player multi-point performances in the early part of the first half. 

A giveaway near Connecticut’s goal set up Manhattan for one-on-one with just Hibbert in the goal, but the shot attempt was not put on goal. It was the last action before a lightning warning delayed play in the 31st minute with the Huskies still leading 2-0. When play resumed just over 45 minutes later, the Connecticut defense stepped up to halt a number of Manhattan scoring opportunities. As the two teams headed to the locker room for halftime, the Huskies were maintaining a 2-0 advantage. 

When the second half got underway, UConn had a few scoring opportunities squander away from them as rain continued to dampen the turf of Morrone Stadium. The Huskies had a chance to add points in the 52nd minute when Testori crossed a pass into open space in front of the Jaspers’ goal, but nobody stepped forward to receive the end of the pass. Manhattan quickly returned the ball for a fastbreak opportunity, but Connecticut freshman Luis Watson was able to cut off the penetration before the ball handler could manage a look at the goal. The Jaspers nearly managed their first goal in the 66th minute when sophomore James Lucas got off a shot in UConn’s goalbox. Fortunately for the Huskies, the shot was not well-placed and ricocheted off of the goalpost. 

Connecticut wasn’t content with just two scores. In the 71st minute with bodies in the Manhattan goalbox, sophomore Pierce Bateson beautifully elevated a pass over a Jasper defender to a crashing Adil Iggoute. The graduate student received the pass before firing a cannon-like shot into the corner of the Manhattan goal. The goal was the second of the campaign for Iggoutte while Bateson was credited with assisting on the play. Bateson was inches away from scoring himself in the 82nd minute, but like Lucas earlier in the match, his shot was obstructed by the goal post. At the end of 90 minutes, the Huskies had claimed the victory thanks to the 3-0 effort. 

The Jaspers actually outshot Connecticut 17 to 15, but it was UConn who made their shots count with the three scores in the contest. In the goal, Connecticut’s Hibbert managed four steals versus three for Manhattan. The two teams both attempted four corner kicks, while the Huskies were called for offsides four times to two for the Jaspers. 

During the match, Connecticut’s Lajhar and Manhattan sophomore Ayoub Boumelala both went down for some time after colliding with one another in the 67th minute. Lajhar was able to stand under his own power, but Boumelala needed assistance exiting the field. Lajhar was given a yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play. 

UConn’s next scheduled matchup is set for this Friday when the Huskies welcome the Red Storm of St. John’s University to Morrone Stadium. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. 

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