You can’t win ’em all, but for the men’s soccer team it would be nice to win some more of ’em.
Brown (13-1-1, 5-0-0 Ivy) handed Yale (3-7-5, 1-2-2) its second Ivy League defeat last night in a 2-0 game at Reese Stadium. The Bulldogs’ play reflected an entire season in which the Elis come out flat, only to find their rhythm in the second half before ultimately falling or tying.
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That’s how it went against the Bears.
No. 6 Brown lived up to its ranking in the opening period as the Bears put constant pressure on the Eli defense, launching 13 shots on goal. The attack was led by the team’s top scorers, Dylan Sheehan and Kevin Davies, who have nine and 10 goals, respectively. Darren Howerton added to the onslaught with back-flip throw-ins and a slew of precise corners that placed the ball in front of the goal on play after play.
“Their pressure is well organized,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “It’s an effective tactic designed to disrupt passing, and we’re not experienced enough to outplay a team of this caliber, but we saw good things today.”
The high-pressure attack that Brown favors forced the Bulldogs to defend constantly. But the reliable back line kept the Elis in the game for the first 59 minutes.
With 24 minutes to play in the first half, Brown’s Christopher Roland took a shot at the Bulldogs’ net, and captain and goalkeeper Erik Geiger ’08 punched the ball but could not deflect the pressure. Defender Frank Piasta ’09 also attempted to clear the ball, before defender Markus Jackson ’09 came up with a header that finally knocked the ball away for a corner.
But Brown’s dominance in the first stanza did not last past halftime.
“It was frustrating because we didn’t adapt well to pressure in the first half,” forward Liam Leonard ’09 said. “We started playing better and touching the ball and we actually possessed in the second. Being able to possess allowed us to move up the field.”
The Eli offensive effort saw a huge improvement over the single shot the team took in the opening half. The more fluid Bulldogs upped their output of shots on goal to four, and the squad spent more time in Brown territory.
But the impact of Yale’s improved second-half ball possession was mitigated by Brown’s nationally-ranked offense. The Bears recorded their first goal of the match in the 60th minute.
Call it ping pong on turf. Howerton gave a swift right-footed kick in Geiger’s direction. The Eli goalie tried to punch the shot away and forced it toward defender Jackson, who proceeded to head it back at the Bears. Brown’s Davies retaliated by immediately heading the ball back at the Yale goal and into a wide-open net.
After the goal, the Bulldogs began to put pressure on the Bears, punching three shots through the tough Brown back line.
“They high pressured so much in the first that we tried to bypass their pressure,” Piasta said. “We just didn’t really get out of that, afterwards you try to slow the game down and [in the second half] we responded pretty well.”
Down 1-0, the ever-resilient Elis — who have come back from behind in five recent matches — were unable to get the equalizer that would have given the Bulldogs a school-record sixth tie on the season.
The Bears showed off their offensive prowess once again when they secured the game in the 84th minute. After Sheehan received a cross that drew Geiger out of the goal, he easily placed the ball into the left corner under the foiled netminder’s dive.
The Bulldogs had an opportunity to gain a point with less than five minutes remaining when defender Alex Guzinski ’09 received a cross in front of the net. He touched the ball to forward Aden Farina-Henry ’11, who shot the ball in to the net, but the goal was annulled because Farina-Henry was called offsides.
“Part of this process of improvement as a team is measuring ourselves against the best,” Tompkins said. “We’ve been up against some pretty good teams, and while the results haven’t gone our way, the experience we’re gaining has been invaluable.”
The Elis’ focus on development this year is evident. Forward Kevin Pope ’10, who had no scores last season, leads the team with three goals, and rookie midfielder Andy Shorten ’11 tops the squad with five points. The team has been cultivating its wealth of young players in four matches against ranked teams. The Bulldogs’ season finale comes against No. 17 Harvard this week.
The loss was the Elis’ first to Brown in three years and brings the overall series between the two schools to 39-30-1 in Yale’s favor. It gives the Bears their seventh consecutive victory this season.