On a cool Tuesday evening at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Connecticut, the University of Connecticut men’s soccer team hosted their cross-state rivals, the Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils. Ultimately, the Huskies claimed a convincing 3-1 victory.
Playing against a CCSU squad that has not had much success in recent memory, UConn head coach Chris Gbandi took the opportunity to give some of his players that don’t receive regular playing time a chance to take the pitch. The lineup changes paid dividends almost immediately. The two teams began play in a scoreless tie before junior Greg Maclean scored the first goal of his career for the Huskies. First-year Mikah Thomas entered a beautiful volley into the goal box that was nodded by graduate student Adil Iggoute. The ball was deflected into the air and Maclean headed it back down, bouncing the ball into the back of the Central net. Iggoute and Thomas were given assists on the play.
The Blue Devils challenged the Huskies’ defense a number of times in the first half. They benefited from an aggressive sequence in the 30th minute when UConn goalie Clayton Knibbs made a Central player fall to the ground in the Huskies’ goalbox. The incident warranted a yellow card for unsporting and the Blue Devils were awarded a free kick, which the team converted easily.
UConn ended the first half on a high note. With just over two minutes remaining before halftime, Thomas again raised a volley pass into the CCSU goalbox. The result was more direct this time, as sophomore Joey Saputo was the first and only player to touch the ball before it crossed the plane for another Husky score. If you blinked, you missed it, as the ball began its descent and bodies began to swarm the goal box. Only Saputo had his eye on the ball and he made the Blue Devils pay for their confusion. It was the first goal of the campaign for the sophomore, while Thomas assisted for the second time in the match. Junior Okem Chime also assisted on the play. At halftime, UConn was maintaining a 2-1 advantage.
It was all Huskies again in the second half, as the Blue Devils failed to compose a real threat against UConn’s lead. For safe measures, Saputo knocked in a second goal in the 68th minute. It was a perfectly executed play, as sophomore Nicolas Tomerius broke into the Central goal box before dropping a pass to fellow sophomore Eli Conway. Conway quickly found Saputo penetrating on the far side of the box and his pass was timed perfectly – in one fluid motion, Saputo ran through the soccer ball and elevated it through the uprights. Both Conway and Tomerius were credited with assists. The goal was the final score by either team and cemented a solid 3-1 showing for the home team.
“These two goals meant a lot to me,” Saputo said after his team-leading performance. “I’ve been working hard and I’m happy to have gotten rewarded. It was a good team performance overall and I’m happy with the way that we played.”
In total, Central actually attempted more shots than UConn (10 to 8), with both managing four shots on-goal. Knibbs and Kyle Briere combined for four saves in the Husky goal, while CCSU managed just one save. The Huskies bested the Blue Devils in fouls committed (13 to 10) and offsides calls (4 to 0), while Central attempted more corner kicks (5 to 2).
With the win, the Huskies have now won three straight matches dating back to September 11. The team’s next chance to extend its win streak will come this Saturday, when Connecticut travels to South Orange, N.J. for a Big East matchup versus the Pirates of Seton Hall University. Kick-off is set for 6 p.m. Fans at home can catch the Huskies live with a FloSports subscription.