The UCF Knights were not the favorites in Saturday night’s conference match against the UConn Huskies, but the Knights came out on top defeating the Huskies 2-1 in overtime.
The Knights’ big win was its first over UConn in program history. UCF was able to find the back of the net twice against a gritty Huskies’ defense that has only allowed eight goals all season.
Coming out with a different lineup and formation, UCF executed their game plan almost perfectly.
“Going into this game we knew we had to win, so we had to change the lineup and formation a little bit to take advantage of some things we saw on video that we knew we could,” head coach Bryan Cunningham said.
The lineup changes paid off and the Knights came out strong from the beginning. The first half of the game was a fairly even match but all eyes were on the Knights in the second half and in overtime.
Putting high pressure on the Huskies’ defense all game, in the 76th minute it was UCF freshman midfielder Brian Jamba who hit a laser shot from almost 30 yards out into the upper left corner that put the Knights on the board. It was Jamba’s first goal on the year, and it could not have come at a better time.
Junior standout Matias Pyysalo had nothing but high praise for his teammate’s goal.
“It can’t get any better than that. It was just absolutely pitch perfect,” Pyysalo said.
The lead was short lived, however, as just five minutes later UConn senior forward Kwame Awuah was in position to put in a rebound to tie the game at one.
As regulation came to a close the game was tied but the Knights were far from finished.
“When they came off the field after regulation, there was a different look in their eye tonight. They looked like winners and that they certainly wanted to win this game,” Cunningham said.
Nothing was more evident than the Knights’ desire to win. In just two minutes, it was Pyysalo that got lose in the Huskies’ attacking third and was able to get the game winning goal in the back of the net. The UCF Soccer Complex erupted, and the coaches and players stormed the field. It was certainly the most emotional moment of the Knights’ season.
Senior captain Javier Clavijo, who is known for being an emotional player, could not say enough about the team’s enormous win.
“We work so hard every day and we are always together. When we get a special moment like that to truly bond and celebrate something together, it’s incredible. It’s kind of indescribable to be honest,” Clavijo said.
The Knights are back on the road as they look for another win when they face off against Florida International University Tuesday at 7 p.m.