The Dartmouth Classic will be the launching pad for the men’s soccer team’s Ivy League season, which gets started in two weeks.
Yale (0-3) will head up to Hanover for the season’s farthest road trip to play UW-Milwaukee (0-6) and St. Francis (Pa) (1-5) in the Big Green’s tournament this weekend — but will have to wait another two weeks before actually facing the Dartmouth squad. Continuing a whirlwind three-game week, the Bulldogs will then travel to Boston College on Sept. 26 before beginning conference play.
On the heels of two home losses in the season opener and a strong performance in a close loss at Fairfield, the Elis are looking for a win to build up to facing Ancient Eight foes.
“Mentally, it’s really taxing preparing for the Ivy game on Oct. 6,” midfielder Alex Afsahi ’09 said. “This weekend and Wednesday are going to be about us proving to ourselves that we’re ready to compete in the Ivy League.”
To get a pair of wins in New Hampshire, the Bulldogs will have to get the ball in the back of the net — the squad only has one goal on the season so far. But their experience playing together on the field has been building their offensive strength, captain and goalkeeper Erik Geiger ’08 said.
Last week’s road match saw the Elis maintaining possession of the ball and getting more offensive opportunities, with forward Brad Rose ’11 and midfielder Eric Meyer ’11 pressuring the Stags’ back line. But finishing remains a problem, and the Bulldogs have only managed to get .355 percent of their shots on goal.
“We do need to score more goals and take advantage of opportunities we create,” Geiger said. “The building blocks are there, we’ve tried to get into the mind-set that whenever people have the ball they have the chance to score and should do things to help get the ball in the net.”
The offense has improved with each game, but the Bulldog back line has been consistently solid from opening day. All four regular defenders are upperclassmen with a wealth of experience on the field and have helped hold off the potent Fairfield and Sacred Heart offenses.But three of the five goals given up on the season came in the first or last 10 minutes of play in each half. To eliminate those mistakes, the team’s concentration has to be constant for all 90 minutes of play.
“In terms of giving up goals, what’s been happening is small moments of lacking concentration,” Afsahi said. “What we’ve been concentrating on is making a habit of concentrating extra hard the first and last five minutes of every half.”
The Elis want to pull together the skills they have been honing to get two wins on the board in the Dartmouth Classic. On Friday they take the field against St. Francis, a squad with a rookie head coach that reached the NEC tournament last year but has lost five of six games this year.
The Red Flash boasts group of offensive players who know how to put the ball away and a competent goalkeeper who had a .809 save percentage last year. But the loss of senior top-scorers Scott Thompson and Aaron Clapham — with five goals apiece — has put a damper on their offensive output.
After facing St. Francis, the Bulldogs will line up against UW-Milwaukee, another struggling squad with an inexperienced coach who ended a five-year streak as Horizon League tournament championships last season. The UWM team returns eight starters this season but adds 12 freshmen to the roster who will make up virtually the entirety of the Panther offense.
“They’re both better teams than their records would suggest, as are we,” Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said. “They’re well coached teams who haven’t been able to catch breaks and they’ll be out to prove themselves in the same fashion we are. That should lead to some pretty competitive games.”
The Bulldogs look to snatch a couple of wins up in the Granite State before heading to Boston College at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 26 for their final pre-conference match.