The men’s soccer team held Dartmouth’s speedy forward Lucky Mkosana at bay and won its second game in the Ivy League, giving the team its first back-to-back wins of the season.
It wasn’t done with flash or speed, but the Bulldogs’ solid defense and discipline ensured they were in control for a majority of the match. Midfielder Charlie Neil ’12 said the team was able to play head coach Brian Tompkins’ game plan almost to perfection.
“We knew Lucky was one of the best forwards in the league,” Neil said. “He’s such a tough player to defend one-on-one.”
So the team didn’t defend him one-on-one, instead swarming to the ball whenever the senior attacker was in possession. After breaking away from one defender and streaking up-field — drawing gasps from the crowd — the senior attacker was immediately frustrated by other defenders.
The stats showed the result: the Zimbabwe native, who has notched 26 shots on goal this season, only had two chances at the Yale net on Saturday. And goalkeeper Bobby Thalman ’13 said those shots weren’t threatening.
“He never had any shots where he could square up to the goal,” Thalman said. “It was a great defensive performance … we were able to execute our plan.”
While both teams had five shots on goal, only the Bulldog attack seemed to have real teeth as it scored one goal in each half. Both goals exemplified the Rube Goldberg machine that is the Yale offense: quick touches by a lot of different players leading to seemingly easy scores. The first came when midfielder Max McKiernan ’14 dropped a beautiful cross-kick from 25 yards out right onto Charlie Paris ’12 for a header to the corner of the net.
Neil’s goal came off a similarly deft assist.
“Nick Alers ’14 played an awesome long ball … I was fortunate to run into it,” Neil said, describing his shot’s deflection off the Big Green keeper into the goal.
While the offense received a majority of the praise for leading the Yale turnaround, the last three games have leaned on the defense. At the University of Connecticut, it held the No. 1 team in the country scoreless for 109 out of 110 minutes. Against Harvard, it withstood a furious second-half assault, and this weekend the defense cut off the circulation in a lethally quick Dartmouth attack.
Thalman made five saves for his fourth shutout of the season. Tompkins said in a post-game interview that the team had given their “most disciplined and most complete performance of the season.”
Yale (6–4–1) is now second in the Ivy League while Cornell (6–1–3) is in first. Both teams, which finished last season ranked second-to-last and last respectively, will play for the top spot in this Saturday’s matchup at Reese Stadium.