STORRS, Conn. – The UConn men’s soccer team is gearing up for the 2017 season to begin on Friday, August 25 and welcomes a group of new talent to join its returning players for a competitive schedule.
Take a look at the position-by-position breakdown for the upcoming season:
With its leading scorer returning in rising junior Abdou Mbacke Thiam, the depth at the striker position is looking especially strong for the Huskies.
Thiam (Dakar, Senegal), who has led UConn in goals each of the past two seasons, will lead the offensive attack for head coach Ray Reid’s team – which ranked second in the American Athletic Conference last season with 26 goals.
He scored 10 goals as a sophomore and was named First Team All-Conference, following his freshman campaign when he had a team-high 11 tallies. As a freshman, he earned All-Conference Second Team and All-Rookie Team honors.
Brown (Springfield, Mass.) enters his junior season after making 11 appearances in 2016. As a freshman, he appeared in 12 matches and scored a pair of goals, including a game-tying score against Boston University in the NCAA Tournament.
Souza (West Hartford, Conn.) returns as a redshirt junior, while Canicatti (Whitestone, N.Y.) will be a redshirt freshman, adding depth to the UConn striking core.
Penn State transfer Dayonn Harris (Milton, Ontario) joins the Huskies after two years in State College, most recently starting all 18 games as a sophomore. Harris scored three goals and added two assists, including the game-winner against Pittsburgh on Oct. 11.
In addition to Harris, senior David Abunaw (Bloomfield, Conn.) brings experience to the team after spending time at both the University of Hartford and Bryant University. In the last two seasons with the Bulldogs (2015, 2016), he played in 28 of 32 games.
In three of the past four seasons, the Huskies have ranked in the upper-half of the American Athletic Conference in goals scored – including the 2013 seasons, when they led the league with 36 goals and 109 total points.
UConn will also sport one of the strongest midfields in the American Athletic Conference – led by rising seniors Cheikh Stephane Coly and Andrew Geres, as well as rising sophomores Niko Petridis and Munir Saleh.
Even with the departure of midfielder Kwame Awuah, who was drafted 16th overall by New York City FC in the MLS SuperDraft, the Huskies will return six midfielders from a year ago – while adding four to the equation.
The midfield position will be especially important for head coach Ray Reid’s team, which will face seven teams this season that qualified for the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Among the opposition are ranked programs such as Notre Dame (Sept. 2), Providence (Sept. 26), and Maryland (Oct.2).
Coly (Dakar, Senegal), one of three team captains in 2016, started all 19 matches for the Huskies as a junior, contributing two assists to the offensive attack. Defensively, UConn allowed just 0.77 goals per game, the lowest-mark in the American Athletic Conference.
Redshirt senior Andrew Geres (Portland, Conn.) will continue to be a solid contributor to the midfield, as he ranked second on the team in goals (3) and third in points (9) in 2016.
Joining the senior experience of Coly and Geres is Petridis (Norwalk, Conn.), who is coming off a sensational freshman campaign that ended with a nod to the All-Rookie Team. He scored a goal and had two assists in 17 match appearances.
Saleh (Kitchener, Ontario) also was selected All-Rookie Team after his first season with the Huskies. He made seven starts, but had 19 total match appearances throughout the year. Coach Reid is expecting a big year from Petridis and Saleh.
Seniors Alex Kao (Paris, France) and Santiago Muriel (Norwalk, Conn.) will add more experience to the midfield position, while redshirt freshman George Kutrubis (Norwalk, Conn.) rounds out the returners.
The addition of freshmen Blaise N’Gague (Lyon, France) will contribute international playing experience, as he is a member of the Chad National Team. Freshman Cole Venner (Burlington, Vt.) was an NESCAC Class A champion with the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass.
Freshmen Josh Burnett (Glen Ridge, N.J.) and Jarod Riedl (New Milford, Conn.) will provide more depth at midfield, allowing the Huskies to have multiple options throughout the season when it comes to the most active position on the field.
With the return of Coly, Petridis and Saleh, as well as the balanced mix of youth and experience deeper on the roster, the Huskies are in prime position to take a big advantage at the midfield position against opponents.
Of the six players listed in the UConn backfield, five are returners – making up the biggest percentage of returning players at any position for the Huskies.
Redshirt junior Dylan Greenberg (Dix Hills, N.Y.) were both main contributors in 2016. Junior Jacob Hauser-Ramsey (Seattle, Wash.), who will serve as team captain for UConn in 2017, started in all 18 of his appearances as a sophomore.
Redshirt sophomore Nkosi Burgess (Deer Park, N.Y.) appeared in 15 matches last season, scoring a goal in his first career match in the season-opener against Iona.
Redshirt freshman Frantz Innocent, Jr. (East Hartford, Conn.) also returns to the squad for his second season in Storrs.
Freshmen Nicolas Apostol (Coquitlam, B.C.) and Nick Demaso (Fairfield, Conn.) join the Huskies for their inaugural seasons, adding youth to the defensive line. Apostol has a lot of playing experience, including the Canadian U-18 National Team and making his USL debut at the age of 17.
The UConn defense was stout in 2016, allowing opponents just a .098 shot percentage, while surrendering only 8.1 shots per game.
The Huskies are carrying four goalkeepers this season, with redshirt senior Scott Levene (Stamford, Conn.) as the standout. Levene played every minute of the 2016 season between the posts, allowing 15 goals in 19 matches.
Levene had a .792 save percentage, the best in the American Athletic Conference, while making 57 saves, which was good for fifth-most. He posted eight shutouts and has now made 52 consecutive starts since 2014 as a redshirt freshman.
Junior Austin Aviza (Medway, Mass.) joins the team, while redshirt freshmen Alex Botazzi (Tewksbury, Mass.) and Bailey Bassett (Ellington, Conn.) round-out the backup group for Levene heading into 2017.
In 2016, Levene ranked 26th in all of Division I in goals allowed per game (0.77).