Several weeks ago, the matchup between the soccer teams of Yale and St. John’s University looked to be a great contest between two nationally ranked powers. At that point, the Elis were coming off wins against the University of Rhode Island and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, solidifying a No. 22 ranking.
But the team that faced the Red Storm yesterday — reeling from four straight losses and with no goaltenders on the roster upon Russ Stroud’s ’04 season-ending injury — was just trying to take back its season.
The Bulldogs (5-6-2, 1-3-1 Ivy) were unable to stop their losing streak, falling 5-0 to No. 7 St. John’s (10-1-3) Wednesday on Long Island. The loss puts Yale under .500 for the first time since its season-opening loss to Harvard.
In goal for the Bulldogs was David Pozen ’02, the fourth person to clock time as goalie this season. Pozen was recruited to play soccer but quit the team after his freshman year to pursue other interests. In his unexpected return, he recorded three saves.
After Stroud was injured in a mid-air collision against Columbia University Saturday, Pozen contacted coach Brian Tompkins to offer his services to his former team. Earlier in the season, lacrosse player Dan Grimm ’05 also joined the team when original starting goalie Geoff Hollington ’04 was sidelined with a herniated disk in his back.
“In spite of losing the two goalkeepers that we thought we were going to have, Dan and Dave have stepped forward and committed themselves to helping out the program, and that typifies the spirit of the squad right now,” Tompkins said. “What they’re doing is the ultimate act of selflessness — stepping forward to say ‘I’ll help your team.'”
Pozen described the initial experience of returning to soccer as “strange,” but noted that he looked forward to helping out the rest of the season.
“Once the game started, it got a little easier for me,” he said. “It ended up being a lot of fun, and having played one game I’m feeling a lot more confident. We’ve got some tough games ahead, and we want to end the season on a good note.”
From early on in Wednesday’s game, it was apparent that the Bulldogs lacked the firepower to outshoot a team of St. John’s caliber.
“We came out slow and flat and just didn’t seem up for the game,” midfielder Brian Roberts ’04 said. “We need to be more cohesive as a unit both offensively and defensively.”
The Red Storm scored early and often, notching their first goal at 4:01 off a free kick by Jeff Matteo, and finished the half with a three-goal lead. Angel Rodriguez notched the team’s other two first-half goals, including one on a blast from nearly 40 yards out.
“We were indecisive defensively, and they took full advantage of that,” Tompkins said.
The Red Storm began the second half by hitting the crossbar and missing the net several times. Despite good defensive play by Roberts and captain Brian Lavin ’02, St. John’s extended its lead to 4-0 when Jeff Matteo scored his second of the game.
Yale was held to only three shots the entire game, with forward Andrew Dealy ’05 credited for two of them.
“We played pretty timid, I would say, and definitely not to the best of our abilities,” Roberts said.
Tompkins noted that he underestimated St. John’s style of play.
“We didn’t expect them to possess the ball as well in their defensive zone, and we thought we would be able to adequately contain their outside backs with the tactical shape we’d been using,” he said. “Unfortunately, they were able to get out against that, and they made us pay for it.”
St. John’s peppered the Yale goal with 15 shots.
The final goal for the Red Storm came off a penalty kick after Pozen took down Rodriguez, who was on a breakaway, in the box. Chris Wingert converted the kick with about 22 minutes left in the game.
The Elis’ next opportunity to halt their recent skid comes Saturday, when they face Ivy League opponent Brown. This will be the Bears’ second trip to New Haven. In September, they were one of four teams in the Yale-Fila Classic, losing to UAB and Tulsa.
Yale beat both teams, although they did not face Brown, en route to winning the Classic.
“Hopefully we’ll come out more intense against Brown this weekend,” Roberts said. “We need to be a little more goal-oriented and put some balls in the net.”
Tompkins said that the team had “a great practice” Thursday despite the goaltending changes.
“They are as positive-thinking a group of guys as you’d ever want to be around,” Tompkins said. “The old cliche goes ‘it’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up’, and I was really pleased with how they trained today, and I’m confident that you’ll see a spirited performance Saturday.”