Men's soccer fights back to salvage point against UCF
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 23:10
After being down 2-0 early, the No. 24 UConn men’s soccer team battled back to earn a 2-2 draw in double overtime against the University of Central Florida (3-4-2, 1-1-1 American) Saturday night at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium. The Huskies are now (3-2-4, 0-0-3 American) on the season.
UCF struck first in the 13th minute when its leading scorer, sophomore forward Romario Williams drilled a free kick from about 25 yards out that curled just out of the reach of UConn junior goalkeeper Andre Blake and into the upper left corner of the net. The goal was Williams’ fifth of the season.
A little over 20 minutes later, the Knights found the net again when Williams sent a pass to senior midfielder Omar Vallejo through several UConn defenders. Vallejo then pulled the trigger from just outside the penalty box and sent the ball past a diving Blake and into the lower left corner to double the Knights’ lead. The score also marked the first time since Oct. 6, 2012 that UConn conceded multiple goals when the team lost a 3-2 contest to Marquette.
The Huskies, however, answered the bell and ended the half on a high note when junior forward Allando Matheson scored his first goal of the season with just one second remaining on the clock. Freshman defender Jakob Nerwinski worked his way around several UCF defenders on the right side of the pitch and fed a pass to Matheson just inside the box, allowing the North York, Ontario native to fire the shot past UCF goalkeeper Sebastian Evers just inside the right post to send the sellout crowd at Morrone Stadium into a frenzy prior to the break.
“It put us into a good position going into the second half,” said Matheson. “It brought us back, but we still had a lot to do.”
“Allando came in and changed the whole game for us,” said coach Ray Reid, who substituted Matheson into the match just three minutes prior the goal. “I haven’t played Allando as much as he liked this year but he changed the whole game tonight, not just the goal but his effort.”
Despite heading into halftime with a 2-1 deficit, UConn dominated UCF in possession and also had a 12-3 edge on shots in the first half. Coming out of the break, the Huskies continued on with the heavy offensive pressure.
In the 57th minute, junior midfielder Adria Beso sent a cross from the left side into the box that found an airborne freshman forward Cyle Larin. Larin then headed the ball past Evers for the equalizer to tie the game up at 2-2.
UConn had been attacking from the wings frequently since UCF had dropped back more defensively after taking the lead, but the Huskies were not able to connect for a score until then.
“It’s hard because all the teams try to defend half of the field so it’s hard for us to break them down,” Beso said of the Huskies’ attacking plans. “But we’re better than them and it’s what we gotta do. Break them down and try to score.”
“I think that should be happening more,” Larin added. “We need to score like that all the time because the defenders are short.”
After tying the game, the Huskies also clamped down defensively as the team did not allow the Knights to take a single shot for the remainder of the half. UConn finished the regulation leading 17-3 in shots.
Two minutes into overtime, UCF had the first chance to end the match when it was rewarded a free kick just beyond the right side of the penalty box. Blake, however, was able to corral the bouncing shot to keep the score even.
The Huskies had a chance to win the match themselves with just half a minute left in the first overtime. Matheson dribbled the ball near the left side of the box and sent a cross over to junior midfielder Edir DaGraca on the right, DaGraca then passed the ball back to Larin in the box, who fired a shot as he was falling down but only to see the ball go straight to goalkeeper Evers for a save.
UConn had to hold its breath two minutes into the second overtime as a cross from a UCF player led Blake to collide with Williams. Blake was flipped over mid-air as he was going for a catch and fell down on his neck after Williams ran into Blake’s legs. After a visit from doctors and trainers, Blake was able to walk off the pitch on his own power and redshirt sophomore Jacob Wagmeister came in as the replacement. Wagmeister played the remainder of the match and made one save while Blake departed the match with two.
After the play resumed, the Huskies continued their offensive pressure as Nerwinski fought for a ball along the right side of the pitch and won a corner for the Huskies with just over a minute left. Beso’s proceeding cross from the corner connected with Matheson, but his header flew just over the crossbar.
Several seconds later, Matheson had a chance to score again when DaGraca set up a pass for him just inside the right edge of the box, but Matheson’s shot sailed just over the upper right corner as the clock ticked down.
UConn’s last chance came with five seconds remaining in the match on a free kick from about 30 yards out. Beso took the show shot but only to watch it curl just over the upper left corner as the referee blew the whistle to draw the conclusion to the match.
The draw marks the third consecutive for the Huskies after the team tied 1-1 on the road against both University of South Florida and Temple. Reid, however, commended the team’s effort to fight back in the match.
“They were freaking resilient,” Reid said. “I give this kid on the end (Matheson) a lot of credit. That goal with a second left changed the momentum. Nerwinski worked his backside off and Allando scored a big-time goal. You saw tonight just what the character of this group is about. They gave me 100 percent.”
As for the conditions of both Blake and senior forward Mamadou Doudou Diouf, who hasn’t played since Sept. 17 against Syracuse, Reid said that both are “fine” and Blake will not miss any time. However, Reid has yet to give a timetable as to when the Senegalese forward will return.
The Huskies will continue their conference battles on Wednesday, Oct. 9 when they take on Rutgers at Morrone Stadium at 7 p.m.