Loss at UConn ups pressure in men’s soccer’s quest for postseason play


Alejandro Trevino | DePaul Athletics

Head Coach Mark Plotkin surveys the pitch during squad training in 2018.

With crescendoing Big East tournament implications, DePaul let an opportunity slip away Saturday night with a 1-0 loss at the hands of the UConn Huskies in Storrs, Conn.

From first touch, the Blue Demons seemed a step slow and out of focus, as UConn held an obvious advantage in possession, and won a clear majority of 50/50 balls in the middle third of the pitch.

“I think we just came out flat and were letting our initial mistakes have an effect on us,” said head coach Mark Plotkin. “We needed to do a better job of letting the last play go and just focus on connecting the next pass.”

DePaul’s passing miscues played a role in UConn taking control early. After receiving the ball on a goal kick in the first half, an errant pass by freshman center back Ethan Gordon in DePaul’s defensive third gave the Huskies an easy chance at goal. UConn sophomore forward Okem Chime secured possession at the edge of the box on the left wing, took a couple touches and put away a scarcely contested low-driven shot into the right corner of the net for an easy goal in the 24th minute.

UConn continued to enjoy chances at goal in the first half. The only noteworthy Blue Demon highlight in the first 45 minutes was by sophomore keeper Ghandi Cruz, who made an incredible save on a point-blank header attempt by UConn graduate forward Frantz Pierrot.

The slow start left Plotkin and his staff less than satisfied, as the Demons’ hopes of earning a top-6 spot in the table and a berth in the Big East wane.

“It definitely is [frustrating], but you could sense the frustration on our guys too,” Plotkin said. “They knew they weren’t playing great. We talked at halftime about connecting the first pass and [applying] more pressure defensively to commit turnovers, and they did that.”

In the second half, DePaul looked like a completely different team. The Blue Demons beat opponents to the ball, made crisp passes and built organized attacking chances.

Plotkin moved junior attacking midfielder Jacob Huth to the number 10 spot after half time, an adjustment that seemed to unlock things for DePaul’s attack. Huth repeatedly created chances for DePaul forwards, but it proved to be too little too late, as UConn’s packed-in defense kept the Demons out of the net.

Fortunately for DePaul, the result of other Big East matches Saturday night keeps the Blue Demons’ postseason hopes alive, as they’re still only three points away from sixth place with two games left. Still, they’ll likely need to win both matches to give themselves significant odds at playing in the league tournament.

DePaul (4-5-6, 1-3-4) will travel to Omaha, Neb. Saturday for a 6:30 p.m. CDT matchup with sixth place Creighton (5-3-6, 2-2-4). The Demons will have a chance to steal the Blue Jays’ place in the table and vie for a berth in the Big East tournament.

“Our guys know their backs are up against it, but believe in themselves,” Plotkin said. “If we bring the same energy from the second half [of the UConn game] to start the game next Saturday, we’re going to make a good run at it. “