Men’s soccer: Dogfight set between Huskies and Pirates 

UConn men’s soccer plays a great game against CCSU at the Morrone stadium in Storrs Conn. on Sept. 19, 2023. The Huskies stayed strong throughout the game coming back from half time even more energized than before which led them to a three to one victory. Photo by Siham Nedloussi/The Daily Campus

The UConn men’s soccer team will play perhaps their toughest opponent to date on Saturday in the form of the Seton Hall Pirates. 

At 4-2-1, the Pirates have gotten off to an extremely strong start this season. The team has strung off impressive victories over programs such as Air Force and Bucknell. Seton Hall can hardly be faulted for their two losses, which came against two of the top college soccer programs in the nation in No. 10 Indiana and Georgetown. The Pirates most recently defeated Bucknell by a 4-1 score on Tuesday. In that match, the team pulled out to a 2-0 advantage in the first half. After allowing Bucknell to score at the start of the second half, the Pirates quickly regained momentum and threw two more scores on the board to ensure the win. Prior to the season beginning, Seton Hall was voted the eighth-best team out of the 12 members of the Big East by the preseason coaches’ poll. They will almost certainly be ranked higher in the actual Big East standings if they continue to play at their current level. 

Connecticut has also seen success as the early portion of the campaign. The Huskies are 5-2 overall and have rifled off three consecutive victories over Manhattan, St. John’s and Central Connecticut State, respectively. Against CCSU on Tuesday, UConn pulled out to an early lead but the teams found themselves tied at one midway through the first half. A goal late in the half gave Connecticut the lead and they tacked on one more in the second half for good measure to ensure the 3-1 win. Sophomore Joey Saputo was the hero for the Huskies after scoring two goals in the match, while the Connecticut defense continuously stepped up to mediate any momentum Central was gaining on offense. After finishing tied for second-worst in the preseason poll, UConn has turned heads with its strong start to the season. 

The Huskies have seen a number of players take a leap forward in head coach Chris Gbandi’s program. Among those standouts has been sophomore Pierce Bateson. Originally from Reading, England, Bateson appeared in 16 games for UConn last season, including eight starts. He’s well on his way to surpass both of those figures having played in all seven of Connecticut’s matches this year and has started in five. After scoring two points all of last year, the midfielder has tallied six already this season thanks to two goals and two assists. His most recent score came against Manhattan last Friday and what an absolute beauty, as Bateson made a spin move to pass his defender and dump the ball off to teammate Adil Iggoute. Immediately, he cut to the goal to receive the return pass and converted the score from a short distance. Against a pesky Seton Hall team, Connecticut will need to rely on Bateson’s steady performance. 

The Pirates have a number of key contributors to thank for their hot start, but none have been better at putting the ball in the net than graduate student Andrea Borg. A native of Sliema, Malta, Borg’s nine points scored lead all Seton Hall players. In the campaign, he has scored three goals and assisted three times while finding himself tied with Jared Smith for the most shots attempted on the team. He contributed on two of the Pirates’ four goals versus Bucknell, scoring one goal himself and assisting on another. In his time at Seton Hall, Borg won the 2020 Big East Championship and has also been a Big East All-Academic Team selection in 2020, 2021 and 2023, respectively. A strong performance by Borg would tremendously increase the Pirates’ likelihood of defeating Connecticut. 

From 1987 to the present, UConn versus Seton Hall has been a fairly even matchup. Both programs are 15-15-4 against each other during that period, with the Pirates winning their last matchup via a 1-0 score last October. The Huskies were the dominant opponent from 2006 to 2010 when they won five games in a row against the Pirates, the longest win streak either has had against each other. 

Connecticut will travel to Owen T. Carroll Field in South Orange, New Jersey. to meet Seton Hall. Kick-off is set for 6 p.m. this Saturday. Husky fans can watch the match live with a subscription to FloSports. 

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