STORRS, Conn. – In a match that had the intensity of what head coach Ray Reid compared to a late-round NCAA Tournament game, the UConn men’s soccer team lost to No. 9 Notre Dame, 1-0, on an 84th-minute goal on Saturday night at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium.
The Huskies arguably outplayed the Irish for the majority of the contest in front of a crowd of 4,522 fans, but Notre Dame’s Jeff Farina netted his fourth goal of the season in the 84th off a cross to the far post – sinking UConn late.
For the third-straight game, UConn outshot its opponent – and quite heavily, by way of a 10-4 margin. Freshman Austin DaSilva had a game-high four shots, including several headers in the box.
“The toughest thing to do in this game is score goals,” said Reid in the postgame. “I’m happy with how we competed tonight, but we have to take better advantage of our opportunities.”
Redshirt senior goalkeeper Scott Levene made three saves on the night, including a nice diving stop in the 69th minute. It wasn’t until a crossed ball to the far post found midfielder Jack Casey, who passed to Farina, that the scoreless tie was broken.
“If we got an early goal, it would have been a different game. A lot of positive things tonight, but it was a tough loss,” said sophomore midfielder Niko Petridis.
UConn’s defense shined tonight for most of the match– especially with freshman Blaise Tohou N’Gague patrolling the center of the field. Between N’Gague and redshirt sophomore Nkosi Burgess, the middle of the field remained sealed.
“Blaise and Nkosi worked really well together tonight, but we’re in the business of playing tough games,” said redshirt senior goalkeeper Scott Levene. “In my five years, I have never seen our team get as many goal opportunities in the first three games of a season. It’s an encouraging sign.”
As it did in the first two games, the UConn offense dominated possession of the ball on Saturday. Key scoring chances came in the 85th minute, when a cross just missed the foot of junior Abdou Mbacke Thiam, and in the 80th minute when DaSilva headed a ball over the crossbar.
In the 62nd minute, freshman Josh Burnett crossed the ball to freshman Nicolas Apostol, who kicked the ball out of mid-air into the lower right corner, but a diving stop by Irish goalkeeper Chris Hubbard kept the game scoreless.
Between DaSilva, Burnett, Apostol and N’Gague, Reid was thrilled with the production from his freshmen.
“Burnett, Apostol, Blaise (N’Gague) and DaSilva have made huge contributions in the first three games, especially considering they were thrown into the fire as freshmen,” said Reid. “Coach (Mike) Miller did a good job putting this class together.”
UConn had an 8-3 edge in corner kicks, raising their season advantage over opponents to 28-5 in that category. Six different players recorded shots for the Huskies against the Irish.
The Huskies now turn their focus to Georgetown next Saturday night. Kickoff at Morrone Stadium is slated for 7 p.m. (ET) against the Hoyas, following the UConn football game at noon against USF.
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