Last season was a struggle for the men’s soccer team, which finished with a 3–12 record, tied for the worst winning percentage in the Ivy League. But this year, the team hopes to ride on experience and a new coaching staff to rejoin the Ivy elite.
The Bulldogs will return 14 players this season after losing three seniors, Eric Meyer ’11, Sebastian Serra ’11 and Andy Shorten ’11, to graduation. Forward Brad Rose ’11 will return as a super-senior. Captain and defender Chris Dennen ’12 said that injuries to forwards Rose and Scott Armbrust ’13 last season forced some players to play extra minutes, allowing them to gain the experience that will help the team in the upcoming season.
“We have high expectations,” Dennen. “We’ve always been a team that’s worked hard and expected to win.”
Head coach Brian Tompkins said that Yale brought in three new assistant coaches to change what Dennen described as the team’s “shaky” offensive identity. The new staff includes former Yale players Hiro Suzuki ’00 and Jay Alberts ’03, and former Valparaiso University assistant coach Caileen Bailey. Last year the Bulldogs had nearly 100 fewer attempts at the goal than its opponents.
“We’ve tried to change our identity in the spring, [to become] a team who can pass and move and out-possess a team … be technically sound and aggressive; shift our attack to keep possession in the opponent’s third,” Dennen said. “There’s a lot more offensive opportunity in the top.”
He added that one of the main goals of the strategy is to take the pressure off Yale’s defense, and goalie Bobby Thalman ’13. Thalman had 65 saves last season, 30 coming in Ivy games, the highest in the league.
“Changing a team’s culture often necessitates changing faces on the playing and coaching staff,” Tompkins said. “We have added three outstanding role models for our players.”
The Bulldogs will be able to test out its new offensive identity and the “strong defensive backbone” that Dennen mentioned in their season debut against Central Connecticut State at home on Sep. 2. The team begins league play against Harvard in New Haven on Oct. 1. The top teams in the Ivy League — Princeton, Penn, Brown and Dartmouth — will likely present a challenge for Yale, as all four have distanced themselves from the rest of the league the past two years, finishing last season ranked 28, 24, 23, and 22 in the nation respectively, whereas the rest of the Ivy League came no higher than 71st.
Midfielder Charlie Neil ’12 said the coaching change has brought a new energy to practice.
“It’s good to bring in some fresh blood, [with a] fresh perspective, drills, tips on the side at practice. Looking at the team with fresh eyes… practices this year have been really competitive.”
Tompkins said that he wants to rejoin the elite as soon as possible. He thinks this year, the team can do it.
“[They] have been outstanding in their commitment and work ethic … [there are] no prima donnas among them.”
The Bulldogs game against Central Connecticut State is slated to begin at 3 p.m.