Final scores do not always accurately capture the momentum of any given game.
The men’s soccer team (4-9-1, 1-4 Ivy) fell to Penn (8-4-1, 4-1) on Saturday night, 1-0. Although the struggling Yale squad squared off against a dominant Quaker team, the teams’ styles of play were similar and the competition was much closer than expected.
The only goal of the match was scored in the fourth minute, when Quakers defender Keith Vereb was fouled outside the 18-yard box and took a direct kick. Goalkeeper Erik Geiger ’08 got a piece of the shot, but the ball dropped behind him and into the goal. The Elis, down 1-0, played as well as they have at any point this season, but ultimately were unable to level the score.
“Games turn on key moments,” Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said. “[Penn] just got a key moment and we didn’t. That’s what cost us the game.”
After the early goal, maintaining possession was the focus for both teams. Although each team controlled play for long sequences during the game, neither team was dominant. The Bulldogs and the Quakers both rely on ball movement and possession, which made the game very balanced.
“Their style of play and intensity matched ours and it really raised our game,” forward Alex Munns ’07 said.
The Bulldogs were able to play consistently over the two periods, an aspect of their game they have been struggling with until this point. The number of shots — the Elis fired 16 shots while Penn only had eight opportunities on goal — showed both their aggressiveness in the offensive third and the constant pressure they kept on the Quaker defense.
The Quakers’ relatively low number of shots was due to the Yale defense, which seemed impenetrable at times. Throughout the game, there were only a few Penn breakaways and the Bulldogs’ four-man defense shut down most of the Quakers’ potential scoring opportunities.
Munns attributes the Bulldogs’ elevated level of play to a difference in their concentration.
“A raised concentration level helps in terms of game management and technique,” he said.
In past games, when the Elis were not playing up to the standards they set for themselves, they usually tried to play long balls from the defense up to the offense. On Saturday, the Bulldogs passed up the side of the field and controlled the midfield, leading them to longer possessions and more shot opportunities. This style of play worked because key players made valuable contributions, Geiger said.
“[Midfielder] Jon Carlos [’09], Alex Munns and [midfielder] Markus Jackson [’09] were playing well,” he said. “You have to give the ball to the people playing well. It was a solid effort.”
The Elis’ offense came alive against the Quakers because of their ball movement in the midfield. However, offensive presence and the number of shots were not reflected in the score for the Bulldogs.
In what was thoroughly a team effort, all three Yale lines achieved the pregame goal of possessing the ball against a Penn team that is known to execute the same strategy. The two teams totalled 24 shots, keeping each team’s goaltender busy. Geiger had one save over the course of the game, and Penn netminder Daniel Cepero had six stops for the Quakers.
Even though the Bulldogs matched their expectations by maintaining a high level of concentration and playing both halves with equal intensity, they were unable to finish in the offensive third and left the score at 1-0.
“It’s a disappointing loss,” Tompkins said. “But I was really pleased with the way the guys competed. We worked hard and the spirit, commitment and effort were excellent.”
This loss effectively ends the Elis’ chances in the Ivy League, having lost four of five conference games. The Quakers remain at the top of the Ancient Eight standings with only one loss. But there are still games to be played and the season will go on, Tompkins said.
“We still have to play for pride and to keep proving ourselves,” he said.
The Elis next match will be on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in New Haven against Albany.