M. SOCCER | Bulldogs split opening weekend

Max McKiernan ’14 celebrates his goal against Central Connecticut on Friday.
Max McKiernan ’14 celebrates his goal against Central Connecticut on Friday. Photo by David McNeill.

Last year, it took the men’s soccer team six games before they earned their first win. This year, it took the Bulldogs just one.

Yale (1–1–0) dominated its home opener against Central Connecticut State (0–2–0) on Friday, beating the Blue Devils 2–0, but the team followed it up with a tough 0–1 loss on the road at Lehigh (1–1–1) yesterday.

It was a reversal of fortune in both cases, as CCSU defeated Yale last year and Lehigh had been winless in the schools’ previous three meetings.

In both games the Bulldogs played a very aggressive brand of soccer, swarming the ball on defense and accruing a significantly higher number of fouls than their opponents. At home, the Elis had 21 fouls (compared to CCSU’s 12); against Lehigh the tally was 11 fouls to 3.

The strategy served them well against the Blue Devils on Friday. Captain Chris Dennen ’12 said the team was very eager to get on the field and perform with the intensity they’ve been training with over the off-season.

“We were definitely ready to go, we had a lot of energy; we were definitely excited,” Dennen said.

It showed, as Yale immediately forced a turnover, allowing Charlie Paris a strong shot at the goal just 14 seconds in. The Bulldogs’ two goals of that game would come later, from Max McKiernan ’14 in the final minute of the first half, and from Max Morice ’15 halfway through the second.

“He had a great game, his first game in college,” Dennen said of Morice. “He’s a great player and part of the team system. It wasn’t surprising.”

Dennen said that everyone on the team, freshman or senior, is expected to play his role. In fact, 18 different players split time over the weekend.

“The thing about our team, we can create goals from pretty much anywhere,” Dennen said. “We’ll be able to out-possess teams and have a variety of attacking options. We’re a well-balanced attacking team.”

Eleven different Bulldogs took shots in the two games, compared to just five players in last year’s first two games. The only statistical category that has not caught up is shots on goal. For such a dominant turn against CCSU, the Elis got only one more shot on goal, and the Mountain Hawks got twice as many chances at the net.

Dennen said the score in the Lehigh game could have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for Bobby Thalman ’13, who was able to keep it close right until the end, posting nine saves.

Dennen explained that Lehigh’s direct style of play — kicking the ball straight from the defense to their offense — frustrated the team’s rhythm. Lehigh’s only goal, and their first goal of the season, came off just such a long chip pass.

Still, in the second half Yale was able to keep the ball out of the air and on the ground to create their own shots at the net. Lehigh’s goalkeeper, though, posted his second shutout in three games.

“We put a fair amount of pressure on him,” Dennen said. “He made a few key punches and saves against us.”

The Bulldogs will look to bounce back against Quinnipiac this Friday night, at home in Reese Stadium.

“I think as a team we’re playing well, we’re coming together nicely,” Dennen said. “We show signs of a very promising season; but we have to learn from this loss.”

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