The UConn Huskies were back to their old ways as they defeated St. Francis 1-0 in their season opener, but it was a pair of new faces that led the way for the perennial powerhouse.
Freshman Cyle Larin opened his UConn account in the 24th minute, as he broke free to head home a cross from fellow freshman Kwame Awuah. Meanwhile, Larin, another freshman, hailing from Manahawkin, N.J, threatened the Terriers’ defense throughout the night with both his passing and shooting ability, as he was able to create numerous chances for the hosts.
Both UConn and St. Francis came out of the gates tentative, as opening night jitters resulted in a feeling out process for much of the opening frame. However, senior striker Mamadou Diouf was able to spark the first UConn chance of the evening, as he pushed a shot just wide of the goal.
From there, the Huskies found their attacking flow, as Larin was able to play Diouf through with a through ball that would have been a sure goal if not for the heroics of St. Francis keeper Jack Binks.
However, Larin couldn’t be denied for long as he was able to open the scoring with a thumping header to put the Huskies in the drivers seat.
“When I play in front of a crowd like that, it gets me more excited,” said Larin, whose opening goal was witnessed by a crowd of 3,225 fans. “I want to score because when I score with a crowd like that, the feeling is amazing.”
“The ball came back out from a corner kick and I received it,” said the freshman Awuah, whose assist to Larin proved to be the game winner. “I saw Cyle opening up calling for the ball, so I tried my best to hit it down the middle. It got to him and he scored the goal.”
The second half proved nervy for the Huskies, as St. Francis looked to equalize through the counter.
St. Francis star Kevin Correa almost put the underdogs on the scoresheet, as a 49th minute run got him in alone with UConn keeper Andre Blake. However, the 2013 Preseason All-American Blake was able to parry the shot and prevent the Terriers from a potential equalizer.
UConn also relied on the heroics of junior. defender Dwight Ceballo, who was able to clear a ball off the line to preserve the Husky lead. “They kept pushing and pushing,” said Larin, whose goal ended up proving vital for the winners after a laboring second half. “We got lucky.”
From there, the teams exchanged possession resulting in a few chances, including one that came from a spectacular bit of skill that saw Diouf skip right by his St. Francis defender.
St. Francis got one final chance with less than two minutes remaining, as Correa once again got free in the UConn box, but pushed the shot just wide of Blake.
“We got tired. The game opened up. It was a mess,” said UConn coach Ray Reid. “It was a bit of fatigue. It was a bit of panic. It’s opening night, but this win will get us confidence.”
While the freshman duo of Larin and Awuah proved to be the deciding factor, Reid was quick to dismiss any hype building behind the young stars.
“This guy just found this guys head and they scored a goal,” said Reid, who enters his 17th season in charge in Storrs. “Let’s not crown these two guys. Lets not get ahead of ourselves.”
Despite the opening night frustrations, UConn was able to escape with a win and is now looking forward to a contest with William and Mary Monday night.