The odds did not favor the Yale men’s soccer team Tuesday night in its game against No. 1 UConn.
The Bulldogs were playing their third game in five days — their second road game in three days — against the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, a team that had shut out its past five opponents, and had just beaten No. 12 St. John’s 2–0, a team that beat Yale 2–0 just two weeks before.
But up to the 109th minute, it did not seem like the odds mattered much. Yale held the Huskies scoreless for most of the game and nearly escaped with a tie, but UConn scored with 61 seconds remaining in double overtime to seal the victory for the Huskies.
Yale had its chances to pull off the upset. With the score at 0–0 in the first half, captain Chris Dennen ’12 had the Bulldogs’ best scoring opportunity of the night. He nearly scored on a header aimed for the corner of the goal, but a defender stopped the ball at the line before it could roll in.
“We fought for each other, we played for each other [and] we really gave them a scare,” Dennen said.
Improbably, Yale outplayed UConn in the second half. The Bulldogs got three more shots on goal than the Huskies, two from Jenner Fox ’14.
“In the second half, that might be our best performance of the season. … We were dangerous,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “Our guys really stepped up to the challenge today.”
The teams have played every year for the last five years, the record leaning heavily in favor of the Huskies, 0–4–1. The single tie came in 2008, at Morrone Stadium in Storrs, when neither team was able to score a goal. The last time the Bulldogs beat the Huskies was in 2003, again at Morrone.
But Yale has experience playing strong defensive teams this season. National rankings for shutout percentage show five teams tied for second place — Yale has played three of those teams. Lehigh, St. John’s and UConn have kept three-quarters of their opponents from scoring any goals. Yale lost to Lehigh and St. John’s before visiting Connecticut.
UConn’s freshman goalie, Andre Blake, was a large obstacle Tuesday night. Blake was named the Big East’s Goalkeeper of the Week on Monday, and ranks third in the NCAA with a 0.929 save percentage. On Tuesday night, he boosted that percentage with another five saves. Max Morice ’15 missed the net right at the buzzer, and the game went into overtime.
UConn then went into overdrive. The Huskies attacked the Elis, forcing Thalman to block four shots in just 10 minutes. In double overtime, Thalman would get one more save, and Yale looked like it was going to secure the improbable draw until — with 61 seconds left in the nearly two-and-a-half-hour match — Connecticut’s Blake Nickardo scored his first goal of the season off a deflected corner kick. “We didn’t deserve the result that we got, frankly. … It was really a heartbreaking loss,” Tompkins said. “A touch here, or a bit of luck there and we might not have just tied — we might have won.”
Dennen, who had two shots at the Huskies’ goal, said that the team was exhausted after playing three games in five days. But he added that its peformance versus the No. 1 Connecticut Huskies shows that Yale can run with any team.
“We know we can hang with anyone in the country. … We’re not afraid,” Dennen said. “It’s something this team takes pride in. … We’ll give it our best and work like hell.”
The Bulldogs will sink their teeth into the Crimson Saturday at 7 p.m. at home for their Ivy League opener.