The men’s soccer team is good at patterns. It used to tie double overtime games. But now, with a loss on Wednesday, the squad has suffered consecutive 2-1 defeats.
Yale (2-6-4, 0-1-2 Ivy) fell to No. 2 UConn (13-2-1) by a score of 2-1 last night on a rain-soaked field at Reese Stadium. The Huskies — who were ranked first in the nation until their defeat to West Virginia on Oct. 19 — took the game on the heels of an impressive performance by the top goal scorer in the country. UConn handed the Bulldogs their second loss in two games as they head into the fourth weekend of conference play.
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UConn’s O’Brian White, the nation’s leader with 18 goals, stole the show yesterday with his deadly accuracy — two of his three shots on goal found the back of the net. His first goal defined the game before halftime, as the Huskies controlled play and foiled the Elis’ attempts to find a rhythm.
White took control of the ball near the top of the 18-yard box and dribbled through the Bulldogs’ back line. He beat every player in a whirlwind of movement and rocketed a shot past captain and goalkeeper Erik Geiger’s ’08 block 26:00 minutes into the match.
“[White] is not the kind of player where you’re constantly aware of how good he is,” defender Max Rhodes ’09 said. “But if you give him a chance, he’ll take it. I would never say a loss is a good result, but this is definitely among the best results where the other team outscores us.”
The Bulldog defense was kept on its toes as the squad had to bat off multiple attempts to dribble down the field and charge through the back line. The defense was effective at holding off most of the Husky attacks, but once the ball reached the midfield, the Bulldogs got bogged down by the UConn players and were unable to find openings offensively.
“We would have liked to possess more and to move better with the ball than we did,” Geiger said. “We would have liked to combine around them but we didn’t play particularly bad.”
The second half saw an improvement in the Elis’ game as they were able to learn from their mistakes in the opening period. The home team began to control the pace of the game more and found ways to open up passing lanes, midfielder Jordan Raybould ’10 said.
One of the Bulldogs’ best chances to score came when a cross to midfielder Liam Leonard ’09 drew Husky netminder Josh Ford out of position in the 75th minute. Leonard got the ball to forward Aden Farina-Henry ’11, who was positioned in front of the center of the goal. But Farina-Henry’s shot was blocked by a UConn defender and the Elis remained behind.
“Coach told us to slow down our game,” Raybould said. “We started passing as a first option instead of dribbling. It helped our possession and we definitely kept the ball a lot more.”
But the improved offense was knocked down again when White scored his second goal with 10 minutes remaining in the game to put the Elis down 2-0. Leonard then crossed a long ball to forward Kevin Pope ’10, who launched the ball straight past Ford’s grasp for his second career goal with 52 seconds on the clock.
The goal was too little, too late for the Bulldogs, but they did have some shining moments on the field. The back line was solid and held UConn to just two goals. Last year, the Bulldogs lost 4-1 to a lower-ranked Huskies lineup in Storrs, Conn.
Players said the offense proved to be resilient and was able to change the way the team played midway through the contest.
“The effort and application was very good,” Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said. “We focused on two things: discipline and determination, and we got that. In the second half we moved the ball better and created chances. We were down by two, and I was pleased that we persevered. We looked like the team that we want to be.”