Yesterday’s men’s soccer game illustrated that baseball isn’t the only game of inches.
Yale’s bid to upset No. 7 Fairleigh Dickinson (7-0-1) sailed over the crossbar in the waning seconds of regulation. Instead, FDU scored the golden goal one minute into overtime to edge the Bulldogs 2-1 at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium.
With eight seconds left in regulation, forward Josh Block ’07 received a perfect pass from defender James Stewart ’07 but chipped it just inches over the top of the goal. A minute into overtime, goalkeeper Erik Geiger ’08 — who finished with six saves — fouled a Knight in the box, setting up Nadav Gottesman’s game-winning penalty kick.
“It’s a heartbreaker,” Block said. “But we played really well against a top team. We respected their ranking … but I think we showed we can hang with any team in the country on any given day.”
The difficult end, however, should not overshadow what was an impressive performance against a heavily-favored and hot FDU squad. The Bulldogs were more than able to hang against the Knights, never showing signs of intimidation and constantly putting pressure on the FDU defense.
“It was a very even game,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “It’s one of those well-contested games that could have gone either way. Obviously we’re disappointed, but there’s a difference between being disappointed and discouraged. We are definitely not discouraged; the spirit is strong.”
The closeness of the game is evident in the fact that the teams spent the majority of the time tied. The Knights struck first off a Mirza Rusevic direct kick with 19 seconds left in the first half. But the Bulldogs kept up the offensive pressure and cracked through seven minutes into the second half when forward Liam Leonard ’09 fielded a chip from defender Markus Jackson ’09 and banged it into the net.
Recognizing the size of the FDU back field, Tompkins said the team did a solid job of setting up openings on the wings by spreading out the offense.
The Bulldogs’ gritty performance is all the more impressive given that they were without star forward and captain Shannon Brooks ’06, who is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
“It’s obviously a blow when you lose a guy like Shannon,” forward Alex Munns ’07 said. “But the good thing is we get contributions from a lot of players. We weren’t lost without him today. Guys like Liam were able to step in and play well.”
Leonard acknowledged that he had big shoes to fill and simply wanted to put out maximum effort.
“With Shannon gone, a big void is left,” Leonard said. “I just wanted to go in there and play hard, play well. I got a perfect ball from Markus and I was just able to kick it in.”
While the Bulldogs understand they let a perfect upset opportunity slip through their hands, the lessons learned from a tough, emotional game against a national power somewhat eased the painful loss.
“In this situation the outcome of the game is less important than how we played it,” Tompkins said. “Obviously you’d rather get the win, but I felt we played with spirit and showed that we are a dangerous team.”
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