MEN’S SOCCER | Second-half run lands first victory for Bulldogs

Though the men’s soccer team went into halftime in a 1–1 tie, the Bulldogs defeated Sacred Heart 4–1 .
Though the men’s soccer team went into halftime in a 1–1 tie, the Bulldogs defeated Sacred Heart 4–1 . Photo by Graham Harboe.

After struggling to score goals for much of last season, the men’s soccer team’s offense came alive on Tuesday with a four-goal effort propelled by a hat trick from forward Peter Jacobson ’14. This marked the first time that a Yale player scored a hat trick since Alex Munns ’07 tallied three goals, also against Sacred Heart, in 2004. The senior’s strong performance helped the Bulldogs improve to 1–1–0 on the season with a 4–1 thumping of Sacred Heart in Fairfield.

“It was great to see our hard work translate into goals on the offensive end,” captain Max McKiernan ’14 said. “The win tonight was just the next step in building on the work we’ve done since we started preseason. We still have a lot more to improve on and a lot more to prove.”

The Elis, frustrated last week in a 2–0 loss to Fordham, came out firing against the Pioneers (2–4–0). Within the first 15 minutes, Yale had four corners, saw two of their shots saved by Sacred Heart goalkeeper Dylan Strachan and a further shot blocked by a defender. However, unlike last week, Yale took advantage of its early pressure and in the 20th minute Jacobson got on the end of a Henry Albrecht ’17 free kick and buried his header in the back of the net.

The Bulldogs kept attacking and forced Strachan into two more saves inside 10 minutes. But the Pioneers would not buckle and equalized in the 40th minute with a free kick from 25 yards out.

Sacred Heart built off the momentum from their goal and won two consecutive corners followed by a shot that Yale goalkeeper Blake Brown ’15 had to parry away in the 43rd minute. The half time whistle blew before any further action, and the teams went into the break tied at 1–1.

Midfielder Cameron Kirdzik ’17 started the half brightly for the Elis, forcing Strachan to block his shot away, with less than a minute gone in the second half. After a pair or Yale corners in the 65th minute, Sacred Heart was whistled for a foul inside its own box, giving Yale a penalty kick opportunity. Jacobson stepped up and slotted the ball past Strachan to put the Elis up 2–1 in the 66th minute. This offensive breakthrough did not satiate the Bulldogs’ appetite for goals and in the next attack Kirdzik met Jacobson’s ball into the six-yard box and redirected it into the goal for a 3–1 lead. The Yale offense was firing on all cylinders and just over five minutes later, in the 71st minute, forward Jenner Fox ’14 slid his ball into the box where Jacobson turned it into the net to complete his hat trick. This completed the scoring, despite two more shots from Yale, and Jacobson ended the day with three goals and an assist.

“We knew we had the ability and talent to score this many goals, but it feels good to prove it,” Jacobson said. “Everyone played very well tonight, and we’re going into the Fairfield game with a lot of confidence.”

The strong performance was an important rebound after the Bulldogs were shut out last week against Fordham.

Yale scored three goals in a six-minute period in the second half to break a 1–1 tie and put the match out of reach. The Elis finished the match with a total of eight shots and nine corners, while Brown recorded three saves. Yale submitted a complete team performance that featured 20 out of 25 squad members.

“Today we focused on improving the intensity of our defensive pressure,” Nick Alers ’14 said. “I think that pressure gradually wore Sacred Heart down, and we were able to capitalize on their mistakes and turn defensive into offense in the second half. Also, our finishing was more clinical today — Peter Jacobson was a great finisher around the box.”

The game also saw a very impressive performance by Kirdzik in his second match for the Elis. The freshman from Flemington, N.J., ended his day with a goal and an assist in his 65 minutes on the field.

“Cam is a beast,” McKiernan said. “Athletically he will create a lot of problems for our opponents this season. He played great tonight but I still think we have yet to see his best. He should be a force for us moving forward.”

Another freshman, Albrecht, made his presence known with his first career assist on Jacobson’s first-half goal.

Both McKiernan and Alers both noted that the win was an important stepping-stone for the rest of the season but stressed the team’s continued need for improvement. Nonetheless the Bulldogs will go into their home opener against Fairfield with a weight lifted off their backs after nearly halving last year’s nine-goal scoring total in a single contest.

On the defensive end, the Bulldogs have only given up one of their three goals conceded so far this season from free play. While work is needed on defending set pieces, Yale’s new back five has performed well together despite the absence of last years’ key members Bobby Thalman ’13 and Milan Tica ’13.

“I think we are becoming more comfortable with our system and playing with each other,” Alers said. “Now the important thing is to take another step in our home opener.”

Yale takes on Fairfield this Friday at Reese Stadium at 7 p.m.

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