The men’s soccer team, on a two-game win streak, and Brown, which has not lost a game since mid-October, should provide some television drama when they face off tonight in Providence.
Yale (6-9-1, 2-4 Ivy) will take on the Bears (10-3-3, 3-1-2 Ivy) at 8 p.m. to wrap up the season in a nationally televised game airing on the Fox Soccer Channel.
The Elis have been on a roll the past two weeks, losing a close 1-0 match to Penn but dominating Albany and Columbia to jump to sixth place in the Ivy League standings. Brown has two ties and two wins in the past two weeks, enough to maintain its third place position in the conference.
“It’s always a tough game against Brown,” Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said. “But we want to finish the season on a positive note.”
Tompkins said that the Bears have a formidable defense and are good at corner kicks and free kicks. On the flip side of the coin, the Bulldogs have struggled to improve their offense and to defend against set pieces all season. Since the Bulldogs have placed so much effort on improving those aspects of their game recently, what could be seen as trouble for the Yale squad may be just the thing that will help the Elis beat Brown.
The Yale offense has scored six goals in the past three games, equaling their total points in all of their Ivy contests up to this past weekend. The defense is more efficient now, too; the last set piece it allowed to find the back of the net was against Penn, two weeks ago. Tompkins’ strategy is for Yale to have a strong offensive presence against the Bears.
“We will need to be especially sharp at the net,” he said. “We need to create chances, and when those opportunities present themselves, we will have to take advantage of them.”
Although the Bulldogs have improved over the last few weeks, there are still things that needed improvement before their final match. As their scoring record shows, the Elis have been more dynamic in the offensive third recently, but the players and Tompkins said that the tempo of play has been too fast in the last three games, causing the Bulldogs to turn over the ball too much. This week, the team worked on controlling their speed when attacking and have been able to possess the ball with more effectiveness.
“Although we were a little bit rushed before, we put up four [goals] against Columbia,” captain and defender Jordan Rieger ’07 said. “That shows that our offense is alive again.”
Even though preparation for the upcoming game was the team’s focus this week, there is some frustration regarding the way the Elis’ season took shape. Tompkins said that it was disappointing not to live up to the pre-season expectations of challenging for the Ivy title for the second year in a row.
While their position in the Ancient Eight standings is a cause for dissatisfaction, the Elis also have a certain amount of nostalgia for the season. Goalkeeper Erik Geiger ’08 said that he felt the season went by very quickly and that the team played better than the outcomes of their games may suggest.
“We know we’re a good team, and if you look at us just based on our win-loss record, you get a distorted picture,” he said.
After tonight, the Bulldogs will hang up their cleats until the 2007 season. But their heart and hard work, which have carried them this far, will be present tonight as they take the field against Brown in front of television cameras and the glare of the lights at Stevenson Field in Rhode Island.
“It’s exciting for it to be on TV and for it to be the last game,” Rieger said. “But everyone has to realize that it’s just another game.”