The third ranked UConn men’s soccer team continued its winning ways as the Huskies were able to take advantage of two Boston Terrier red cards on their way to a 1-0 victory.
Junior midfielder Edir DaGraca was able to open up his UConn account, as a 41’ goal gave the Huskies all they would need on the night. DaGraca followed the example set by UConn forwards Mamadou Diouf and Cyle Larin, as the Huskies were able to pressure the overmatched Terriers with 19 shots.
However, the breakthrough finally came in the 41’ as, DaGraca took advantage of a Diouf assist to give the Huskies the lead.
After receiving the pass on the right side of the box, DaGraca faked his shot, pulled the ball left and fired across the goal, slotting home in the lower left corner.
“Mamadou was like ‘Go, don’t’ stop!’, so I just ran,” said Dagraca, who recently transferred from Monroe College. “I saw the guy running, so I faked the shot, went back in, and just took the shot.”
“I saw number three inside, so I knew Edir was not off. I just slid it through,” added Diouf. “It was a great finish by him.”
The importance of scoring his first goal for a powerhouse like the Huskies wasn’t lost on DaGraca, who has already come to appreciate the opportunity to wear the blue and white.
“It’s best feeling in the world,” said Dagraca. “My dream was to play with a big team like UConn. I had other offers, but I was like ‘No’. Here we have the best goalkeeper in the country, the best forward in the country (Diouf), the best coaches. Everything here is unbelievable. I love it.”
The Terriers made the job easier from there, as a pair of red cards allowed the Huskies to control the game throughout the second half.
Starting goalkeeper Matt Gilbert, who had 4 saves on the day, was sent off in the 64th minute following a challenge on the incoming Cyle Larin.
Larin was able to break free from the Terrier defense, and was brought down just outside the box by the charging Gilbert, forcing the referee to send off the freshman keeper. Gilbert’s replacement, Nick Thomson, stepped in admirably in the second half, making 3 saves to limit the damage.
Gilbert’s example was quickly followed by Jr. defender Kelvin Madzongwe, who was sent to the dressing room after receiving his second yellow of the day in the 75th minute.
From there, it was one-way traffic for the hosts, as Diouf, Larin, and substitute Allando Matheson were able to find opportunities to add to the Husky lead.
Junior goalkeeper Andre Blake was able to record yet another clean sheet, his second in as many games, as the Jamaican international was able to keep the Terriers off the board despite a few nervy moments.
Fellow captain Diouf also had a major impact on the game, despite being kept off the board, as the forward displayed bits of passing skill that rivaled his ability in front of goal.
“My job is always to score goals,” said Diouf. “But now I have a freshman (Larin) playing in front of me, so I need to help him. I have to set him up sometimes. He’s going to miss opportunities some times like I did as a freshman, but I need to back him up and try to cover that, while trying to score and help him feel more comfortable. The most important thing is the team, not the player.
“Whatever position coach puts me, I will do that. Even if he puts me in goal in front of Andre, I will do that, even if I know I’m not good at that,” quipped the Senegalese striker.
“At the next level, Mamadou is going to be a winger,” said Coach Ray Reid to describe last year’s leading scorer. “He knows it. I know it. He ha sacrificed for the team. He’s working hard for the team. He set up Edir’s goal. He knows if we want to be very good as a team, he doesn’t need 26 goals… His job is to score goals and assist.
The Huskies will look to build on the momentum of back-to-back wins, as they host the 19th ranked Washington Huskies Tuesday at Morrone Stadium.