It was not the easiest playing environment for the men’s soccer team to open their 2010 season against the UConn Huskies Saturday night at Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn. The Bulldogs (0–1) fell to the 10th-ranked UConn team 3–1 under the lights in their season opener in front of a rowdy crowd of nearly 4,000 Husky fans. Although the Bulldogs knew they were in for a tough match against their in-state rivals, goalkeeper Bobby Thalman ’13, who finished the day with six saves in his first career start in net, said it was a challenge the team welcomed. And it was a lack of execution more so than nerves that hurt the Elis, according to defender Chris Dennen ’12.
“Playing UConn on the road in front of 4,000 hostile fans can be difficult but I don’t think we let it rattle us too much,” Dennen said. “We learned we need to fix some things and we are going to fix them come Tuesday.”
UConn’s Mamadou Diouf opened the scoring in the 10th minute, and the Huskies’ second goal came minutes later off of Jossimer Sanchez’s foot after a Huskie corner kick.
Diouf went on to score the fourth and final goal of the game, but not before captain and attacker Andy Shorten ’11 got the Bulldogs on the board. The forward connected with defenseman Tucker Kocher ‘14 as he headed the cross into the back of the net. This was one of only three shots on goal on the day for Yale, compared to 16 for the home team.
“The biggest challenge for us was probably creating danger in the offensive part of the field,”Shorten said. “We often possessed the ball quite well, but once we reached the offensive third of the field, we weren’t dynamic or dangerous [enough] to create as many scoring opportunities as we would have liked.”
Still, Thalman said the team showed spurts of positive play over the course of the game.
“In the game there were flashes of great play from both an attacking and defensive standpoint, which is a very optimistic sign going into the season,” Thalman said.
UConn’s Diouf finalized the scoring with his second goal right before the end of the first half.
Despite trailing by two goals twice before the half, Dennen said the team stuck to its game plan of possessing the ball.
“I think we really tried to play soccer,” Dennen said. “When things got bad, we did not just kick the ball up the field and hope for the best.We were determined to pass and move, combine with each other, and worked to make things happen.”
With seven Bulldog starters beingeither freshmen or sophomores, there was much experience to be gained.
“It was our first game so it is impossible to have everything figured out so early in the season,” Dennen said. “We made some tactical mistakes that can only be corrected by game play. We are also a young team, so this game will provide valuable experience for our team.”
The Elis will be back on the road when they travel to face Fairfield on Tuesday at 7 p.m.