With freshmen seeing more playing time lately, one could say the Yale men’s soccer team is green. But the team’s victory over the Crimson last weekend proved that despite some inexperience, the Bulldogs can still make their opponents see red.
Fresh off five wins in their last six games, the men’s soccer team will play Dartmouth on Saturday in their second league game in two weeks. This game is especially important to the Bulldogs (5-1-3, 1-0 Ivy), who can send the defending Ivy champion Big Green (5-1-3, 1-0) from the top of the league standings with a win this weekend.
Despite the Bulldogs’ recent success, the team’s play has been scattered. The Elis have had trouble maintaining a high level of play for a full two halves. In Tuesday’s game against Central Connecticut State University, the Bulldogs controlled the ball for the first half, racking up five shots on goal to CCSU’s none. But the second half saw the reverse, as CCSU stepped up its offense and held onto the ball. Yale only eked out a 1-0 win on a goal with four minutes left from defender Ryan Morrissey ’06.
“We’ve been playing well in one half, but not in the other,” midfielder James Stewart ’07 said. “What we’re looking for now is to put the pieces together and have a good 90 minutes.”
But Yale will not have to rely on just a powerful offense.
“I know the other team won’t score a lot of goals because of our defense and our goalie,” forward Alex Munns ’07 said.
The goalkeeper position has been up in the air lately, with Erik Geiger ’08, the surprise pick for starting goalie at the beginning of the season, not starting the last two games. Dwayne Whylly ’08 and experienced veteran Matt Aleksinas ’06 played against Harvard and CCSU, respectively. But Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said Geiger will likely start on Saturday.
“He’s had a great week of practice,” Tompkins said. “I think he’s regained his sharpness.”
Players said they are confident in all of their goalies.
“You know it’s such a battle to get in [the goal] that once they do, they’ll do a good job,” forward Josh Block ’06 said.
The Bulldogs will play their third game without captain Shannon Brooks ’06, whose presence on the field has been sorely missed. Out since the Sept. 25 win over Drake with a torn ACL, Brooks will not be back this season. Though he will not play, he remains an important influence on the team. Geiger said Brooks has been a vocal leader from the sidelines.
But Brooks’ absence has a silver lining. Forward Liam Leonard ’09, who has assumed Brooks’ starting spot, has scored twice in three games, and midfielder Jon Carlos ’09 was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week last Monday for his one-goal, one-assist performance in the Bulldogs’ victory over Harvard.
“It was hard at first [dealing with Brooks’s loss], but with the freshmen stepping up we just try to move on,” Block said.
The Bulldogs are confident going into Saturday’s game.
“We’re positive,” Block said. “It doesn’t mean we can take it for granted, but I know we’ll put in the effort.”
Given Yale’s lack of offensive firepower, Dartmouth’s defense is a major threat to Eli victory. In nine games, the Big Green has only allowed eight goals, an exceptionally low 0.82 goals per game average.
But while staunchly protecting their own net, Dartmouth seems to have forgotten how to break through the opponent’s defenses. Though Dartmouth has taken more shots per game than Yale, 13.1 to the Bulldogs’ 12.6, the Big Green has only 11 goals to its credit. The Elis have 18.
Munns said a victory over Dartmouth would be harder-fought than last week’s win over Harvard because Dartmouth is a more disciplined team. Where Harvard was cowed by Yale’s dominance over the ball, Munns said he expects Dartmouth to be more aggressive in attacking the ball, making the game more physical.
Tompkins said the teams are evenly matched.
“The key is going to be who executes better, who takes opportunities better, and who makes the fewest mistakes,” he said.