EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- The UConn men's soccer team celebrated the past, present and future of the program on Saturday night, as the annual Meet the Huskies event was held at Rentschler Field for alumni, donors, and fans.
The Huskies honored seven different people who have greatly contributed to either UConn soccer or soccer in the local community - including former star players Tony Cascio, Josh Ford and Chris Gbandi.
Tim Tolokan, special assistant to the Athletic Director, was the master of ceremonies for the evening -- taking to the podium around 6:45 p.m. Beginning at 6 p.m., hors d'oeuvres and drinks were served while current Huskies signed autographs for the children in attendance.
Each current member of the team, playing under 21-year head coach Ray Reid, was introduced and sat at his designated table. Maddox Bruening, a thirteen-year-old who signed on with the program through Team IMPACT last week, was also introduced.
Tolokan then handed the microphone over to Beth Goetz, UConn's Chief Operating Officer and Senior Woman Administrator, who serves as the program administrator for men's soccer.
"Thank you all for the support you continue to give this program. These young men are truly outstanding individuals," said Goetz. "We look forward to having you come out to watch this team play in what is sure to be a successful season."
Prior to the start of dinner, Milan Keser was given the UConn Soccer Outstanding Service Award for his lifelong commitment to youth soccer in the state of Connecticut. Keser was inducted into the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame in 2009.
Dinner was buffet-style for all in attendance, which was followed by Tolokan introducing the next group of honorees. Rick Bernstein, Sean Cassells and Erin Reed were all honored for their contributions to youth soccer in local communities.
"I would like to thank Coach Reid and the UConn men's soccer program for their work in inspiring the community and the youth soccer players in Connecticut," said Cassells, owner and operator of Village Springs Water.
Cascio, Ford and Gbandi -- three of the all-time great Huskies -- each said a few words for the people in attendance as the final honorees. Each member of the trio went on to play in Major League Soccer following their highly successful UConn careers.
"Good luck this season," said Cascio, who was selected NSCAA First Team All-American as a junior in 2010. "Believe in the program and you guys will do great things."
Ford, who holds the all-time UConn record with 54 wins as a goalkeeper, addressed the crowd after Cascio. He wholeheartedly thanked Reid for his positive influence during his college days -- a time that resulted in a five-year MLS career with Seattle and Orlando.
Gbandi received the Bobby Rhine Leadership Award for his outstanding contributions to the UConn soccer program. Currently the head coach of men's soccer at Northeastern, Gbandi won the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy in 2000, while leading UConn to its third-ever national title.
Reid made the closing remarks of the evening, thanking his staff for their hard work in putting the event together and the alumni for attending. He told stories about Cascio, Ford and Gbandi from their playing days.
The UConn coach then discussed the fundraising and building of the new soccer complex, which is in the works on campus. He thanked everyone for their efforts in making the plan a reality.
"It's exciting times here at UConn. A new complex is important to men's soccer, women's soccer and the community at large," said Reid. "When it is built, it will be second to none."
The UConn men's soccer program would like to thank everyone for attending the 2017 edition of Meet the Huskies and looks forward to its home game on Monday when Quinnipiac visits Joseph J. Morrone Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff.