Although the men’s soccer team got the final result it wanted last night, the Bulldogs had hoped it would be less of a struggle to obtain.

The Elis (7-2-4, 2-1-1 Ivy) were finally able to put away a pesky Hartford squad (5-8-2), 1-0, at home last night. While he was pleased with the victory, forward Josh Block ’07 said the Bulldogs did not expect the game to be so close.

“It’s great to get a win but it could’ve been by three or four goals,” he said. “We went in there confident that we could play around them, so it’s disappointing that it was just 1-0, but a win is a win.”

After going into halftime frustrated with a scoreless tie, the Elis broke the stalemate midway through the second half. In the 70th minute, rookie playmaker Jon Carlos ’09 beat his defender down the right flank and sent a perfect cross to a streaking Gage Hills ’07 who headed it in for the goal.

The Bulldogs came into the game expecting to defeat their intra-state rivals by a comfortable margin. But an unorthodox strategic move by the Hawks foiled Yale’s plans. Hartford played in a 4-5-1 formation, which meant nine to ten Hawks were on the defensive side of the field at all times. This allowed the Bulldogs to dominate possession time, but made it difficult for them to get past the Hartford wall. As the game went on the Elis began to break through the defense and set up numerous scoring chances.

“It was difficult because Hartford got a lot of players behind the ball,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “It was a tactical challenge and we solved it pretty well. We played with good patience and tried to stretch them out.”

While the Bulldogs were able to penetrate the defense, they were unable to execute on their opportunities, a problem that has plagued the Elis recently.

“The reward for good play is scoring goals; we played well and didn’t reward ourselves,” Tompkins said. “The keeper came up with a couple of big saves, but we just weren’t quite sharp enough.”

Luckily for the Bulldogs, one goal was enough as the tandem of Matt Aleksinas ’06 and Dwayne Whylly ’08 pitched Yale’s fourth shutout of the season. While he was excited to be playing, Whylly was quick to praise the defense for his success.

“It’s always a great atmosphere to play in, and I didn’t feel like I missed a step,” Whylly said. “[But] the defense was magnificent tonight. They get all the credit for holding [Hartford], I didn’t really even have to do much.”

Although happy with both goalkeepers’ performances, Tompkins was quick to squash any goaltending controversies.

“Erik Geiger [’08] had an outstanding game in Philadelphia,” the coach said. “Because Alex and Dwayne had both been training so hard, I wanted to reward their hard work and get them some live game action. It also gave Erik a breather before the weekend.”

Despite being a non-conference game, the win against a regional opponent has great implications on Yale’s postseason hopes. If the Bulldogs are unable to catch Brown (9-3-1, 4-0-0) in the Ivies, they will have to rely on their non-conference performance to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. This means not only performing well against top programs such as Michigan State, but also taking care of teams that they should beat, as was the case last night. As Tompkins explained, because it was a rivalry game, both teams were playing for more than just a boost in the standings.

“It was an important game for Hartford,” he said. “Their season hasn’t gone as hoped so it was a big game for them … if we want to get any kind of consideration for an at-large bid we need to win within our region. There was a quite a bit at stake even though it was just a non-conference game. And it’s an in-state rivalry game, so pride was at stake too.”

The Bulldogs resume Ivy League play this Saturday at Columbia.

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