STORRS, Conn. – The No. 8 UConn men’s soccer team opens the regular season on Friday against No. 17 Coastal Carolina at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in a match set for 7 p.m.
The Huskies, who went 9-1-2 at home last season, earned draws in both of their preseason matches against Quinnipiac (Aug. 17) and Boston College (Aug. 23). Connecticut forwards Cyle Larin (Brampton, Ontario) and Allando Matheson (North York, Ontario) each tallied a goal in UConn’s 2-2 draw at home against the Eagles in front of a crowd of 4,705 fans on Saturday night.
Larin converted a penalty kick in the 23rd minute after he was taken down in the box, while Matheson scored a sensational goal later in the first half, connecting on a bicycle kick in the box to extend the Huskies’ lead to two. Goals by Boston College’s Idrissa Bangura and Cole DeNormandie would later even the match in the second half.
UConn was selected as the favorite in the American Athletic Conference in a Preseason Coaches Poll released earlier this month, marking the second straight year the Huskies topped the preseason poll in the recently-established league. Senior defender Sergio Campbell (Clarendon, Jamaica) was tabbed as the Conference Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and the UConn center back also earned Preseason All-Conference honors along with Larin, Matheson and senior midfielder Adria Beso Marco (Lleida, Spain).
The Huskies’ season opener will showcase three members of the 2014 MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, as Coastal Carolina forward Ricky Garbanzo, Beso Marco and Larin will all be in action. Garbanzo led the Chanticleers with 13 goals last year, while Beso Marco was named the 2013 Conference Midfielder of the Year and Larin earned Conference Rookie of the Year honors after tallying a team-high 31 points on 14 goals and three assists.
Friday’s match will be the first ever meeting between Connecticut and the 2013 Big South Champion Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers have reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons, and last year they fell to the fourth-seeded California Golden Bears, 1-0, in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament.
A full season preview with position-by-position breakdowns can be found below.
2014 Season Preview
After finishing last year with a 12-3-8 record and earning its third straight trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals, the 2014 UConn men’s soccer team, ranked No. 8 in the NSCAA/Continental Tire Preseason Poll, returns seven starters, including one All-American (Adria Beso Marco) and four All-American Athletic Conference First Team selections. The returning starters combined with the talented group of newcomers has put Connecticut among the country’s top programs.
Several key pieces from the 2013 team, which knocked off top overall seed UCLA on its way to the Elite Eight, return to Storrs this fall along with a promising influx of freshmen who look to make their own history with the three-time national champions.
Beso Marco, the 2013 Conference Midfielder of the Year, All-Conference defender Sergio Campbell and forward Allando Matheson highlight the senior class which is ready to lead a Husky squad that reached the American Athletic Conference Championship in the league’s inaugural season in 2013. Beso Marco was placed on the MAC-Hermann Watch List prior to this season, while Matheson was second in goals (7) last season.
The 2014 schedule features seven opponents that qualified for last year’s NCAA Tournament including Coastal Carolina, who the Huskies open their regular season against on Aug. 29 at Joseph J. Morrone stadium. The Chanticleers (No. 17) are one of three teams UConn faces in 2014 that are ranked in the NSCAA Preseason Poll (Washington – No. 8, Wake Forest No. 11), and eight of 10 of Connecticut’s nonconference opponents finished last year with a winning record.
Two Connecticut soccer matches will be shown live on NSCAATV.com, which is dedicated to providing in-depth coverage of NCAA soccer. The Huskies’ road match against Seattle (Sept. 14) will be featured one the website and the NSCAA will also cover Connecticut’s game against conference newcomer Tulsa, set for Oct. 11 at Morrone Stadium. In addition, UConn’s game against No. 8 Washington will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Network. The two teams played to a 0-0 draw last season at Morrone Stadium.
The UConn defense, which has boasted 24 shutouts in the past two seasons, ranked 12th among Division I schools last season in goals against average (0.69). The Huskies will look to replace senior defender Michael Mercado, who started 22 of Connecticut’s 23 games in 2013. Campbell returns to the defense after starting every match last year along with right and left backs Jakob Nerwinski and Conference All-Rookie Team selection Kwame Awuah.
Five other Huskies round out the rest of the returning players, including Dwight Ceballo, who appeared in 13 games last season. Andrew Geres, Jesse Wasserman and Santiago Muriel all redshirted as freshman last season, and upperclassmen Istvan Kanyo and Will Noiset should provide great leadership after seeing time in multiple games in each of the past two seasons.
Connecticut has four newcomers competing for positions on this season’s team, three of which are true freshmen. Dylan Greenberg has been a member of the U-14 through U-18 U.S. Soccer National Teams and comes to Storrs from Albertson SC, where he played from 2009-14. Alex West earned All-Conference honors will playing for E.O. Smith in Connecticut, while Elliot Ackroyd hails from England following an 11-year stint with two-time European Cup winner Nottingham Forest Football Club.
Mark Richards transferred to UConn from Eastern Connecticut, where he tallied five points in 13 games in 2013 as a freshman.
Beso Marco headlines the UConn midfield in 2014 after leading the Huskies last season with 10 assists, which was the seventh-highest total among all Division I players. The Lleida, Spain native is one of three Husky midfielders on this year’s team that saw time in 2013. Edir DaGraca played in all 23 games last year, finishing the season with two goals, and Alex Sanchez saw time in 14 games and converted his penalty kick in Connecticut’s upset of UCLA.
Redshirt junior Shane Hudson has been with the program in each of the past three seasons, appearing in one game last year for the Huskies, and Connecticut product Lorenz Esposito, who redshirted as a freshman last season, will look to see some quality time on the field this fall.
Gone from the midfield are Juho Karppinen, George Fochive and Colin Bradley. Fochive, a Conference All-Second Team selection in 2013, started all 45 games for the Huskies the past two seasons, while Karppinen played in 46 games during his four-year career at UConn. Bradley started 90 straight games for Connecticut after redshirting as a freshman, and in 2013 he tallied his first career goal, scoring on a penalty kick.
Joining the Huskies in 2014 will be freshmen Cheikh Stephane Coly, Andrew Cohen, Evan Brandon and Joseph Swenson. Coly comes over from Dakar, Senegal and Cohen joins the program after a prolific career at Ellington High School, where he notched 30 goals and was named the Team MVP in 2012.
Brandon played for the Chicago Magic PSG of the U.S. Developmental Academy from 2011-14, while Swenson was a part of the national champion New York Red Bulls Academy U-18 team in 2013. Redshirt freshman Tristan Fappiano led South Kent School to the New England Championship in 2010 and 2011 and he played on the 2010 Region I Olympic Developmental Program.
The 2013 team finished the season with 36 goals, the most for any American Athletic school last year. The Huskies return over 80 percent (80.5) of their scoring from a year ago, including the team’s top three goal scorers, Cyle Larin, Allando Matheson and Nick Zuniga. Larin, the 2013 American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year, had a sensational freshman campaign, tallying 14 goals to lead all UConn scorers. His 0.61 goals per game was the 17th-best mark among all Division I players, and the Brampton, Ontario native was also named to the Soccer America All-Freshmen First Team as well as the NSCAA All-Northeast Second Team. Larin joined Beso Marco on the Watch List for the MAC Hermann Trophy, which was released in August.
Matheson, who was second on the team in points (17) last year, has netted 18 goals in his first three years at Connecticut. He played in 22 games last year for the Huskies, finishing the season with 17 shots on goal. Zuniga has been a factor in the postseason for Connecticut the past two years, notching four goals in 11 tournament matches over that span of time. The UConn striker appeared in all 23 games for the Huskies last season, and he was one of four Husky players to tally double-digit points (11) on the year.
Sophomore Ethan Vanacore Decker figures to play a big role in the Connecticut attack in 2014 after appearing in just 11 games last season due to injuries. He was tabbed the conference Rookie of the Week last September following his game-winner against No. 10 Saint Louis (Sept. 21) and he finished the season with five shots on goal. Redshirt junior Tyler Leeman saw time in one game last year and has played in six games throughout his career at Connecticut.
UConn’s storied tradition of All-American goalkeepers under Ray Reid continued last season, as junior keeper Andre Blake earned NSCAA All-American honors for the third straight season after allowing just 17 goals. The May Pen, Jamaica native became the first goalkeeper to ever be selected No. 1 overall in the MLS SuperDraft when he was picked by the Philadelphia Union this past January, and he finished his Connecticut career third in shutouts (36) and fifth in wins (46).
The Huskies will field a solid group of keepers this season, including redshirt junior Jacob Wagmeister, who recorded two shutouts in relief for Blake last year. Junior Christopher Musco and redshirt freshman Scott Levene both return in net for Connecticut, while freshmen Xavier Fegan and Patrick Guerin and junior transfer Triston Henry round out the remaining three spots.
Fegan comes to UConn after playing at E.O. Smith, where he was an assistant captain as a senior, while Guerin earned All-League honors at Pearl River High School and recorded 12 shutouts during his senior season. Henry played two seasons at Herkimer County Community College, earning 29 shutouts throughout his time with the Generals. He was named an NSCAA All-American in 2013 after leading Herkimer to its second straight National Championship and he was awarded the Safe Hands Award last season while playing for the Toronto Lynx (United Soccer Leagues) U20 team.