Villanova men’s soccer eked out a 1-0 victory over UConn Wednesday night in a wire-to-wire nailbiter. Junior forward Lyam MacKinnon secured the win for the Wildcats with a golden goal penalty kick in the 3rd minute of double overtime. The victory gives the ‘Cats a 4-0 start in Big East play for the first time in program history, and moves them to 8-2 on the year. All four Big East wins have been by the same 1-0 scoreline.
Senior keeper Carson Williams was forced into action early in the match, as he made two diving stops within the first ten minutes. The Wildcat defense hasn’t given up a goal in 388 consecutive minutes of play in Big East play.
"Carson was phenomenal, and our backline really held together well," head coach Tom Carlin said to Villanova Athletics. "It was kind of an end-to-end game and we defended well in space. I thought both teams were tired in the second overtime and it kind of became a battle of attrition."
The run of chances favored UConn for a good portion of the first half of the match, but the Wildcats were able to get a few good chances on the counter-attack, including a chance off of a turnover that MacKinnon forced that nearly pushed the match to 1-0.
At the half, the Huskies led in shots 6-4, although all four of the Wildcats’ shots landed on frame.
The second half story remained much the same, as the ‘Cats continued to withstand the pressure applied from the Huskies’ offense. Arguably the best chance of the first 90 minutes for the Wildcats came in the 74th after another UConn turnover deep in their own final third. Sophomore forward Luke Pompliano took the misplayed ball and launched a shot from close range that the Huskies’ keeper was able to force wide with an outstretched leg to keep the game level at 0-0.
UConn had an excellent chance after a run into the ‘Cats final third in the 88th, but sophomore midfielder Dominic Cyriacks played some excellent individual defense on a Huskies’ striker to dispossess the attack in the danger area.
The Wildcats were awarded a free kick about 50 yards out with seven seconds left in regulation. For the last chance, Cyriacks stepped up and played a ball into the 18-yard box, but it was knocked away by UConn’s defense and the game was sent to overtime.
It was the second time that the Wildcats have been to overtime this season, the first of which was against Temple in September. The first overtime period remained relatively quiet, as through the 10 minutes of play the Huskies dominated possession, but could not create many meaningful chances.
The defining moment of the match came in the 3rd minute of double overtime, as a long ball play broke sophomore forward Akinjide Awujo free on goal with only the keeper to beat. He was then taken down from behind, and a penalty was awarded to the ‘Cats.
"Akinjide did a good job of working hard to establish position there," Coach Carlin said to Villanova Athletics. "It looked like he had an open net to shoot to when he went down."
MacKinnon stepped up to take the penalty, and calmly slotted it home to the right, sending the keeper the wrong way. The score was MacKinnon’s fourth of the season.
The ‘Cats now prepare for a short turnaround, as they are set to play three games in the span of seven days, all in Big East play. The Wildcats start on Saturday with St. John’s at home, Creighton visits on Wednesday, and the week culminates with a showdown with United Soccer Coaches’ No. 1 Georgetown in our nation’s capital.
"The approach now isn't any different,” Carlin said. “We want to keep progressing. 4-0 is nice but we still have six league games to play. There is a lot of soccer left."