Nov. 15, 2013
FRISCO, Texas- The No. 11 University of Connecticut men's soccer team extended its unbeaten streak to 13 games on Friday night at Toyota Stadium, defeating Central Florida, 2-0, to advance to the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship game behind first half goals from freshman Cyle Larin and sophomore Nicholas Zuniga. The Huskies (11-2-5, 4-0-4 The American) have now advanced to the finals of their conference tournament in two of the last three years and will face South Florida Sunday afternoon in the championship at 2 p.m. ET.
Larin opened up the scoring early in the game, netting his team-leading 11th goal of the season. His score came in the 8th minute when he finished off senior forward Mamadou Doudou Diouf's shot attempt in the box, punching in the ball with his right foot to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead. Diouf was credited with an assist along with UConn junior midfielder Adria Beso, who set up the scoring play, ripping a shot that deflected to Diouf in front of the goal. Larin has scored seven times in his last eight games and now holds the top mark in the conference with 11 goals in 2013.
The Huskies found the back of the net again in the 36th minute, when sophomore forward Nicholas Zuniga buried a shot into the right corner of the goal after gathering the rebound in the box from junior forward Allando Matheson's shot attempt. Zuniga has registered four career goals, with three coming in postseason play.
In the 3rd minute, freshman defender Jakob Nerwinski sent a beautiful cross into the box, but he couldn't find a Connecticut attacker as a Central Florida defender headed the ball out of the box and away from danger.
Larin nearly put UConn on the board in the 6th minute, after receiving a long pass in the box from Beso. The freshman gathered the ball, turned, and ripped a shot that missed just wide right of the goal.
UConn dominated possession in the opening 45 minutes, holding the Knights to just one shot in the half. The Huskies kept the ball in the attacking-third for much of the period as they battered Central Florida goalkeeper Sebastian Evers with 14 shots, putting five on goal.
In the second half, both teams didn't see a quality scoring opportunity for the first 30 minutes. UConn almost scored its third goal of the night in the 78th minute when Beso flicked a pass to Matheson near the top of the box before the UCF center back was able to clear the ball away.
The Knights best scoring chance in the second half came in the 85th minute when UCF midfielder Omar Vallejo chipped a pass towards the top of the box but UConn junior defender Sergio Campbell was able to clear the ball towards midfield before the UCF forward could collect it.
For the game, Connecticut outshot UCF 19-3, and Andre Blake earned his fifth straight shutout and the ninth clean slate of the season. The junior keeper moved into sole possession of fourth place on UConn's all-time wins list with 45. Blake's counterpart, Evers, was credited with three saves on the night.
With the win, UConn has now won six of its last eight conference tournament games and 32 in program history.
The three shots allowed by the Huskies were the second lowest total for an opponent on the year.
Sunday's championship match against South Florida will kick off at 2 p.m. ET Sunday at Toyota Stadium, as the Huskies go for their eighth-ever conference tournament title. UConn played to a 1-1 draw against the Bulls when the two teams played one another back on September 27th.