The Yale men’s soccer team played on the road Wednesday night against its intrastate rival, Fairfield. And despite the Bulldogs’ high hopes, the Fairfield Stags (8-1-1) edged out the Elis (5-2-2, 1-1-1) 2-1.
Yale had gone seven straight games without a loss, an undefeated streak that began Sept. 17 with a 2-1 win against the University of Rhode Island. The Stags, the highest ranked team in New England — and No.13 in the nation — scored two goals early against a Yale defense that was sluggish from the outset. Just 2:49 into the game, Fairfield’s Aaron Kingi scored the first goal, followed in rapid succession by teammate James Gledhill’s goal at 12:01.
Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said the early deficit could be attributed to Yale’s underestimation of the Fairfield team.
“We hadn’t anticipated that they would be as effective with their pressure as they were,” Tompkins said. “By the time the game settled into its place we were already two goals down.”
The Stags’ defensive pressure was particularly effective, Tompkins added. In the first half, they limited Yale to two scoring opportunities, and the Fairfield offense managed seven shots.
Fairfield head coach Carl Rees said he felt the numbers reflected the difference in the vigor of the teams.
“Our energy level at the start of the game was higher,” Rees said. “And by maintaining possession of the ball through accurate quick passing, we could dictate the tempo of the game.”
Fortunately for Yale, the sluggishness of the first half eventually wore off. At the beginning of the second half Yale was rejuvenated — even Rees admitted that Yale was the more determined team. The Bulldogs outshot the Stags four to three in the second frame. One of these included a goal head-butted in at 65:10 by captain Brian Lavin ’02 with the assistance of Jon Skalecki ’05.
The difference between halves was both offensive and defensive. Tompkins said, “We were able to move the ball a lot more and create more danger.” He also said that as the Fairfield team began to tire, Yale took advantage of more opportunities.
Yet, the revival came too late. The Yale team, after backpedaling through the first half, was unable to overcome a two-goal deficit. As Lavin said, “I was pleased with the way we regrouped, but we can’t afford to give up two soft goals against a quality opponent and expect to win.”
The Bulldogs’ eventual fall to the Stags marked only their second loss of the season, the first being the season-opener against Harvard.
Rees said he enjoyed the game and is looking forward to next year’s match.
“The games over the last couple of years between the two teams have been close but entertaining,” he said.
Lavin, on the other hand, had expected more.
“Hopefully, we have learned a valuable lesson from this game that we need to focus and engage ourselves from the first whistle to the last,” he said.
The next ten days — until the Oct. 20 game at Penn — will be a much needed break for the team, Tompkins said, pointing out that the team is fatigued both mentally and physically.
“We need to give some of the guys with bumps and bruises some time off,” he said.