After scoring just nine goals in 17 games in 2012, the men’s soccer team will look for more offensive firepower this year as it seeks its first Ivy League title since 2005.
The team managed a 4–8–5 record last season and struggled to a 1–3–3 conference record and a sixth place league finish.
“[Last season was] pretty underwhelming. I don’t think anyone in our circle would argue with that,” captain Max McKiernan ’14 said. “We underperformed based on the talent we had, especially considering the fact that we had returned most of our starters from a team that was one game out of winning the league the previous year. To finish sixth was disappointing.”
To kick off the season, the Bulldogs head to Fordham (1–1–0) in the Bronx today to test themselves against a team they tied 0–0 in double overtime last year.
All five goal scorers from 2012 will be returning this year, including forwards Scott Armbrust ’14 and Peter Jacobson ’14, who scored a team-high three goals apiece last season.
Midfielder Jenner Fox ’14 will also bring experience to the offensive line, and forward Cody Wilkins ’14 is returning after being injured last year. Newcomer Cameron Kirdzik ’17 “could also turn some heads with his speed and power,” head coach Brian Tompkins said in a message to the News.
Tompkins added that in addition to several injuries on the offensive lines, the main issue last year was a lack of scoring opportunities.
The 2012 Bulldogs were seventh in the Ivy League with just 10.41 shots per game and last in the league with 0.53 goals per game. Cornell, the Ivy League champion, had 16.53 shots and 2.29 goals per game.
“We have been focusing our attention on using our speed and mobility to strike more quickly and create danger for our opponents,” Tompkins said.
With seven seniors on its roster, Yale will be able to rely on its experience throughout the season. Four of the seniors played in at least 16 of the team’s 17 games last season, with Wilkins, Nick Alers ’14 and Tucker Kocher ’14 missing games due to injury.
Seven of the team’s nine goals were scored by the class of 2014, and Fox led the team with three assists last season.
“I have a really strong supporting cast,” McKiernan said. “The seniors have all started a lot of games and have been important players in our four years.”
Defensively, the main story is the loss of star goalkeeper Bobby Thalman ’13, who anchored the team’s defense as a starter for three years with 13 total shutouts and was named to the All-Ivy second team in his junior and senior seasons.
Slated to fill Thalman’s place is Blake Brown ’15, who has played in three games at Yale and is yet to allow a goal.
“Blake Brown is an excellent goalkeeper who has learned well from his time as the understudy to Bobby,” Tompkins said. “It is his time now and I think he will respond well.”
In front of Brown, Alers will lead the team’s back line as a veteran starting center back. Alers has earned All-Ivy honors in each of his three seasons and was named to the first team as a sophomore.
“Nick Alers is the best defender in the Ivy League,” McKiernan said. “That’s my opinion, but I think a lot of people would agree with me.”
Phil Piper ’16 and Tyler Detorie ’16 are also returning on defense, and newcomer Henry Albrecht ’17 from Germany is likely to start at left back.
Alers said that in comparison to recent years, the Bulldogs’ defense will feature less physicality but more quickness and soccer intelligence.
“We want our defenders to participate more in the attack and help out the other members of our team in improving our distribution, not just worrying about defending but also helping our team keep the ball in dangerous situations,” he said.
Linking up between the attackers and defenders will be an experienced midfield crew. Fox, Armbrust, Connor Lachenbruch ’15 and Kevin Michalak ’15 all scored goals in the 2012 season, while McKiernan tallied an assist against Penn.
“Max McKiernan is the heartbeat of our team; he is competitive, driven and intensely focused. He is the embodiment of leading by example,” Tompkins said.
After facing off against Fordham, who beat Virginia Tech 2–1 last weekend, the Bulldogs will continue on with their tough 17-game schedule, including four Ivy League home games. In two weeks, the team will travel to California for the first time to play UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly, two top-25 caliber teams.
Yale’s home Ivy opener will be against rival Harvard on Oct. 5.
Players said the team’s goal is always to win an Ivy League title, and that with so much experience on offense and defense, that goal seems within reach.
“As a whole, our team definitely has the potential to have a good year,” Alers said. “But that’s what it is right now, just potential. Since I’ve been here we’ve always had a lot of potential, and we haven’t really realized it. We’ve been as talented as any of the other teams in the Ivy League but we just haven’t been getting the results.”
The Elis kick off their season today at 5 p.m. at Fordham’s Jack Coffey Field.