The University of Connecticut, ranked second in the nation, snapped Yale’s undefeated streakwith a 2–0 shutout Tuesday.
Despite demonstrating good form with increased ball possession and a high-pressure defense, the Bulldogs (3–4–2) were not able to break through the tight defensive wall of Connecticut’s national soccer powerhouse.
“Although they were a very good team, it was unfortunate for us to give up two goals,” said captain and goalkeeper Bobby Thalman ’13, who made four saves in the game.
UConn (8–0–1) started off strong. Just 10 minutes after the kickoff, forward Stephen Diop rifled a shot just near the rear of the opponents’ goalposts, but Thalman waved it off. For the next 10 minutes, the visitors took to the offensive and were able to take three consecutive shots to shake up the hosts. UConn maintained control of the game for the first 20 minutes.
Then after some effort to move deeper into the opponents’ zone, forward Conner Lachenbruch ’15 found an opening at 21:50, as he received a pass from midfielder Kevin Michalak ’15 and shrewdly tapped the ball 20 yards towards the goal.
But the shrewd visiting keeper read Lachenbruch’s intent and quickly jumped up to wrestle the ball down.
Thalman said the offensive line opened up numerous scoring opportunities, but he added that the players must learn to capitalize on their attempts.
For the rest of the first half, the Bulldogs effectively shut down the visitors’ renewed offensive drive, with another memorable save from Thalman, but the hosts could not retaliate on offense. The game began to go awry for the Bulldogs just 10 minutes before the break.
Smashing through Yale’s tight defense, Connecticut’s Allando Matheson maneuvered through the Elis defense and fired a shot that blazed past Thalman to bring the first half to a close with UConn up 1–0.
In the next half, the Bulldogs played more aggressively on offense in an attempt to level the scoreboard. Forward Mitch Wagner ’16 made his first shot on target just two minutes into the half, but UConn defenders blocked the attempt.
Ten minutes into the second half, the Elis again allowed UConn to get a shot on goal. Coming off an assist from Carlos Alvarez, Mamadou Diouf hammered the ball past Thalman’s glove tip and shook the back of the Yale net.
“UConn is best for a reason, but I’m happy that we [held our own] in the second half well,” head coach Brian Tompkins said.
The Bulldogs went all out offensively to make up for the two-goal deficit. Although forward Jenner Fox ’14 found a chance to score three minutes before the match was over, the visitors’ goalie once again made a quick cleanup of a shot that might have broken the shutout.
“In the beginning we probably respected [UConn] too much, but then we started playing our game but were not lucky to catch a couple breaks,” Wilbar said.
Elis recorded nine fewer shots (6–15) but blocked three more shots than UConn (4–1).
Connecticut Public Broadcast Network showed the match on tape delay Tuesday night.
Tompkins said the breakout performances from Wagner, midfielder Peter Ambiel ’15 and midfielder Tony Wilbar ’13 stood out as positive moments of the matchup to bring into Yale’s game against Harvard this Saturday.
The Elis will travel to Boston this weekend to take on archrival Crimson and repeat last year’s victory. Tompkins said the Harvard game is all about confidence.
“We are very excited since Ivy League matches are totally different,” Wilbar added. “We are looking forward to it and beating Harvard highlighted our team’s career.”
Kickoff is slated for Saturday at 7 p.m.