The men’s soccer team’s final home game of the year will be a crucial Ivy League matchup against a red-hot Brown squad — with whom it is tied for fourth.
The Bulldogs (4–9–2, 2–1–2 Ivy) need a win on Senior Night if they hope to have a chance at their first Ancient Eight title since 2005. The Bears (6–6–3, 2–1–2 Ivy) are on a three game winning streak and will be a stiff test for the Elis. Captain and midfielder Max McKiernan ’14 said that the Elis will have an advantage playing at home.
“We’ve played really well in league home games this season,” McKiernan said. “Since it’s senior day we’ll definitely be up for it.”
All seven members of Yale’s senior class will be honored before kickoff as part of the Senior Night festivities. Defender Nick Alers ’14 has played in every minute of every game this season and has been an All-Ivy League selection in each of his previous three seasons. Alers and forward Peter Jacobson ’14, were each named to the Capital One Academic All-District First Team last week. Jacobson has scored 16 goals in his career for the Bulldogs and currently leads the team with nine points.
Winger Jenner Fox ’14 and Forward Scott Armbrust ’14 have both been major offensive contributors for Yale over their four seasons, compiling 16 and 24 points, respectively. Winger Cody Wilkins ’14 has had an injury-hampered career but has reemerged this season, featuring in all but one game for Yale. Defender Tucker Kocher ’14 has been injured his past two seasons but proved integral to the Bulldogs in his first two campaigns, starting more than 10 games both years.
“Senior Night means a lot to me,” Alers said. “It’s special to be playing with the guys in my class for one of the last times ever. They’re great players, but even better guys. [The other seniors] definitely made my time here special.”
Going into the game on Saturday, the Bulldogs are undefeated this season in Ivy League contests at Reese stadium, going 2–0–1 in Ancient Eight home games. Yale’s offense has come to life late into the season, with the Bulldogs scoring two or more goals in three straight games. The Bulldogs have climbed from last to fourth in the conference in goals scored. Against Columbia the team was buoyed by the return of midfielder Henos Musie ’16, who had missed the previous four games due to injury. The Swede scored two goals and picked up his second Ivy League Rookie of the Week honor. Musie now has three goals in eight games this season.
The Bulldogs’ defense, which had been resolute for most of the season, is beginning to show some cracks. The Elis have conceded two or more goals in each of their last two league contests and rank second to last in goals against in the Ancient Eight. Against Penn and Columbia, Yale allowed all four of their opponents’ goals in the 82nd minute or later, resulting in an overtime loss and a tie for the Bulldogs, respectively.
“We have confidence in our scoring capabilities, now it is just about closing out games,” goalkeeper Blake Brown ’15 said. “The coaches have implemented drills to help us close out games and we need to stay mentally sharp during every minute of the game.”
Brown and the rest of the Bulldog defense will need to be resolute against the Bears, who rank third in the Ivy League in scoring. The midfield duo of Daniel Taylor, who leads the team with five assists, and Tariq Akeel, the team leader in goals with four, has combined for 21 points this season. The Bears’ defense has also been good, conceding the second fewest goals in the Ancient Eight this season. Goalkeeper Josh Weiner has kept three shutouts and has the most saves in the Ivy League in addition to the second best save percentage in the conference.
“We are going to come out hard just like we have every game this year,” Brown said. “But in the late moments of the game you will see a composed, organized team.”
The Bulldogs are 6–9–2 against Brown in the regular season under head coach Brian Tompkins. The Elis need a win to stand a chance of winning the Ivy League. In addition to six points from its next two games, Yale needs Harvard to lose both its final games and see second-place Princeton and Penn take no more than three points apiece from their next two games in order to bring the Ancient Eight title back to New Haven.
“The guys in my class and I have been through a lot in our four years here,” Alers said. “There’s been some great ups but also a lot of downs, If we can earn a win on Saturday and be fighting for the title in the last game of the season, that would mean a lot.”
The Bulldogs will enter Reese to take on Brown at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.