Aug 19, 2013
STORRS, Conn. - After finishing the 2012 season with a 17-4-1 record and advancing to the program’s 13th NCAA Quarterfinal, the 2013 Connecticut men’s soccer team returns seven starters, two All-Americans, and three 2012 All- BIG EAST selections. The returning starters combined with the promising young crop of newcomers put UConn among the nation’s elite programs.
The team returns many key players from the 2012 team, which earned Connecticut’s 12th overall BIG EAST regular season title, but also features an exciting influx of freshmen who figure to have an immediate impact for 17th-year head coach Ray Reid.
“This team has a unique balance of senior leadership and a good class of freshman coming in,” said Reid. “Our captains, Mamadou Diouf and Andre Blake, will anchor our team and I think our incoming players can have a positive impact from the moment they step on the field.”
The seniors on the 2013 squad have reached three NCAA tournaments, including two Quarterfinals, tallied 48 wins and earned the program’s first BIG EAST regular season title since 2009. As the program embarks on its inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference, the seniors on this team are ready to lead the transition.
The 2013 schedule features six teams that reached the NCAA Tournament last season, including five teams that reached at least the second round. The challenging lineup opens up on August 30th against St. Francis (N.Y.) at 7 p.m. at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium.
“Our schedule is one of the toughest schedule’s we’ve had in recent years,” said Reid. “We open the season with St. Francis who always plays us tough and then we have critical home games against William &Mary, Boston University, Washington, Bradley and Saint Louis. We have our work cut out for us in conference play too, as Louisville was one of the nation’s best teams, USF is consistently a top-20 program, and SMU will be a very good team in the AAC.”
Connecticut will have two games broadcasted live on the newly created NSCAATV.com website, which is dedicated to providing in-depth coverage of NCAA Soccer. The Huskies will be first be featured on the website on September 21st when they take on Saint Louis at 7 p.m. at Morrone Stadium and will also be covered for their away match against Louisville on October 19th at 7 p.m.
The Huskies will end the regular season on the road for three of their final four contests, finishing the year in Dallas, Texas against SMU on November, 2nd.
The Husky defense has been terrific over the past two seasons, earning 28 shutouts and allowing just 12 total goals in 2012. UConn will look to replace senior defender Max Wasserman who was drafted No. 69 overall by Real Salt Lake in the MLS Supplemental Draft.
Connecticut’s defense returns many of the key players that helped the Huskies rank fourth in NCAA Division I play with just a 0.53 Goals Allowed Average. Senior Michael Mercado has played in 45 games for the Huskies over the past two seasons, logging 1,489 minutes on the field last fall. Also returning to the Husky lineup is junior Sergio Campbell who started in all 22 games for UConn last year, playing nearly 2000 minutes.
Veterans Kareem Morad and Will Nosiet figure to compete for minutes after seeing action in 13 and four games, respectively, for Reid last season. Dwight Ceballo, Istvan Kanyo, and Jonathan Goodridge round out the rest of the returning players. Ceballo didn’t see action last season but has competed in the past with Trinidad and Tobago U-15, U-16, U-17, and U-20 National Teams while attending St. Anthony’s College in Trinidad. He was named the SSFL 2010 Defender of the year and named the league MVP in 2010 and 2011.
“I have big expectations for our returning defenders. Sergio Campbell has great feet and is a true warrior out there on the field. Sergio and Michael Mercado make a great pair in the back together. Ceballo and Noiset are extremely athletic and figure to be competing for minutes this season. Kareem Morad is a hard working guy and will be battling for a position this year. Jonathan Goodridge will be a factor out there as well.”
Connecticut has five newcomers vying for positions on the 2013 squad, including freshman Kwame Awuah (Toronto, Ontario) who has earned two bronze medals competing in the Ontario Summer Games in 2010 and 2012. The defender was also named the 2012 Dante Alighieri Boys Soccer MVP.
“I think our staff is excited to work with the newcomers this year. They are athletic, have good feet and a great feel for what our program is about.”
The Husky midfield position lost three key starters in 2012 BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year Carlos Alvarez, who was drafted No. 2 by Chivas USA in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft draft, 2012 All BIG-EAST First Team Member Jossimar Sanchez who was selected with the 42nd overall pick (4thin the Supplemental draft) by the hometown New England Revolution, and 2012 All-BIG EAST Third Team Member Stephane DIOP who was selected with the 89th overall pick (51st in the Supplemental draft) by the New York Red Bulls. Alvarez, Sanchez and Diop were all four-year starters and will be missed. Combined, the trio started 229 games during their tenures in Storrs.
Junior Adria Beso, who competed in his first season with the Huskies in 2012, was named to the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team after scoring two goals and tallying five assists in his 2012 campaign. Redshirt senior Colin Bradley, who has started all 67 games for the Huskies since 2010, returns for his final year of eligibility and gives the Huskies a good defensive presence. Bradley logged four points last season on four assists.
In his first season with Connecticut, George Fochive started all 22 games and tied for fifth on the team with 20 shots. He had a productive season, including an assist on the game-winning goal in a 1-0 defeat of Northeastern in the NCAA Tournament on November, 18th, 2012.
“Colin is a valuable component of this year’s team; he has had a great first three years for us. George is a great holding midfielder. He is very quick, has fantastic feet, and is a tenacious tackler. He’s a great presence in the midfield. Adria has great feet, super vision and a great mind for the game.”
Joining the Huskies in 2013 will be junior Edir Degraca and freshmen Cyle Larin, Lorenz Esposito, and Alex Sanchez. Degraca was named an FCJAC All-American in 2011 and Team MVP for Central High School, while Larin was named the 2012 Team Captain of Brampton High School. Alex Sanchex has played for both the Arsenal and Chivas USA Academy teams. Esposito competed with the United States Soccer Development Academy with FC Westchester, in Westchester, N.Y., during his senior season.
“Our midfield should be strong,” said Reid. “I really like our returning players. Our freshmen have had successful high school careers and will be relied on heavily. Alex Sanchez has great potential and can play multiple positions. Losing Carlos Alvarez and Sanchez will hurt us but I think we can pick up the slack and fill the void.”
The 2012 team finished the season with 39 total goals, finishing just one shy of the 40 scored in 2011. Senior Mamadou Doudou Diouf was a huge part of equation, scoring 15 goals and earning two assists to lead the team with 32 points. Diouf was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team and honored as a Second Team All-American for his play in 2012.
Allando Matheson figures to be a key piece this season as the junior tallied 15 points on seven goals last season, seeing action in 21 games. Matheson recorded a phenomenal .500 SOG%, and finished second among offensive players with a .175 Shot%. Also returning is Nicholas Zuniga, who ended 2012 on a high note, scoring the game-winner against New Mexico in overtime in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament to send the Huskies to the Elite Eight, and redshirt sophomore Tyler Leeman who had a productive spring.
Freshman Ethan Decker joins the squad having played two years for The Pennington School and earned First Team All-State honors in 2011 and 2012. He was named the Prep Player of the Year in Mercer County in 2011 and 2012. He was a starter for the Red Bull Academy team and was a key piece for the Red Bull U-18 Academy team that won USDA U18 US National Championship this past summer.
“Diouf had a tremendous year for us last year, scoring big goal after big goal. Matheson was a super energizer for us off the bench, creating lots of havoc for opposing defenses. Nick Zuniga can be an extremely dangerous flank player for us. We started to see his ability last year towards the end of the postseason. Ethan Decker has a lot of potential and we are very eager to start working with him and see him play with our veterans. Tyler Leeman is coming off a good spring and should be a factor too.”
UConn has a storied tradition of All-American goalkeepers under Ray Reid, from Bryheem Hancock to Josh Ford. More recently, Andre Blake has established himself as one of the premier goalkeepers in the country, earning back-to-back BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year Awards in 2011 and 2012. He was named a First Team All-American and has helped lead UConn to an incredible 28 shutouts over the past two years, including a program record 16 in 2011. The goalkeeper allowed just 12 goals last season and boasted a 0.53 goals against average. As a freshman, Blake posted a 0.39 goals against average and became the first freshman in BIG EAST men’s soccer history to take home a major conference award.
“Andre’s work really speaks for itself,” said Reid. “He’s firmly entrenched himself as one of the best goalies in the nation and he’s been rewarded for that with another BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year award last season.”