The players’ smiles as they came onto the field for the second half told the story of a game well in hand.
A 3-0 lead for the men’s soccer team before halftime propelled the Elis to a comfortable 4-1 victory over Stony Brook at Reese Stadium last night.
Regular right-winger Jon Carlos ’10, playing his first game at forward, led the Bulldogs on offense with two goals, both assisted by fellow forward Liam Leonard ’09. Another striker, Kevin Pope ’10, also scored on an assist from Captain Alex Guzinski ’09, while midfielder Eric Meyer ’11 added a free-kick goal of his own.
After a disappointing weekend at the Dartmouth Classic in which they dropped both of their games, the Bulldogs rebounded in an impressive fashion, out-shooting the Seawolves, 15-9, and dominating possession of the ball for much of the game.
According to Guzinski, improved ball control — something they had struggled with during their last two losses — was a major reason for their success.
“We played a lot of long ball this weekend; that’s not our strength,” he said. “We played to our strengths; we played out of the back.”
“We did a good job of keeping the ball on the ground,” he added. “This created a lot of opportunities for us on offense.”
The defender acknowledged Yale’s style of play is rare within the Ivy League and college soccer in general. While many teams rely on athleticism and play balls over the top for quick forwards to run on to, the Bulldogs run their offense from out of the back, as they steadily move the ball up the field, through the midfield and up to the forwards.
“[The style of play] is unique to college soccer,” Guzinksi said. “When we do it well, it’s pretty soccer.”
But the Bulldogs didn’t seem to stick to that game plan initially.
The team scored its first goal in the 10th minute on a long-ball pass from Leonard to a running Carlos. According to Leonard, the Elis briefly adopted the long-ball style offense in response to Stony Brook’s defense.
“Their defense was pushed up super high,” he said. “Based on how the defense is playing, we adopt our playing style to what the defense is giving us.
The Bulldogs eventually settled down into their traditional style of offense, constantly putting pressure on the Seawolf defense. Yet it was on game restarts that the home team scored its next two goals, with Pope’s coming from a Guzinski free kick in the 16th minute, and Meyer scoring his own free kick as he bent the ball around the right side of the Stony Brook wall seconds before the end of the half.
The men in blue wasted no time after the halftime pause, as a quick counteract stunned the Seawolf defense. Leonard recuperated a ball in the midfield and sent a through ball to Carlos, who neatly placed the ball in the lower corner of the net in the 48th minute.
Despite the deficit, the away team showed it had some fight, scoring a minute later on a Yannick Prescod goal.
Although tensions heated up with the issuing of three yellow cards midway through the half, the offenses cooled down, with no more goals scored before the final whistle blew.
Following the team’s struggles at the Dartmouth Classic, Meyer, adoringly referred to as “Fogel” by his teammates, acknowledged the offense needed to be more creative.
“There was a lot more creativity in our runs without the ball,” Head Coach Brian Tompkins said. “Guys felt more confident dribbling at opponents and taking shots.”
The switching around of certain players into new positions also seemed to spark creativity, with Carlos trying out forward and defender Jordan Raybould ’10 stepping up to midfield.
For Carlos, the switch proved to be a challenge at first, but it ended up paying dividends.
“It’s different; I’ve never played forward before,” he said. “But I got a lot of coaching from Liam. I think I’ll stay up there.”
For Meyer, the play of Carlos, Leonard and Charlie Neil ’12 powered the team forward and made his job as a midfielder easier.
“I thought that with our two forwards, when our midfielders got the ball, we had options forward and outside,” he said. “We didn’t have to play it backwards as we had previously been doing.”
As the team gears up for the start of the Ivy League season in two weeks, Guzinski still sees room for improvement.
“We need to work on defending as a unit,” he said. “Sometimes we get stretched, which opens up the field for the other team.”
The Bulldogs next welcome Sacred Heart to Reese Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m.