In what was an intense, well-played match, men’s soccer drew 0-0 with Sacred Heart at Reese Stadium on Saturday night.
As the goalless match progressed, tension mounted, and the Bulldogs (2-2-1, 0-0 Ivy) found themselves with a frustrating sense of déjà vu. For a team that tied six games last year, the inability to put a goal in the net was compounded by the fact that their opponents came into the contest with a 1-4 record.
“The general consensus is that we’re all pretty frustrated,” captain Alex Guzinski ’09 said. “It’s frustrating, especially when you work so hard … It’s a game we definitely could have won.”
Throughout the game, Yale was able to control possession, successfully moving the ball through the midfield and putting pressure on Sacred Heart’s defense. Yet they were unable to convert their opportunities into goal-scoring chances. Despite getting off 14 shots, they only forced Sacred Heart’s Matt Jones to make four saves.
Neither team had many good chances on goal during the first half, but as the end of regulation neared, both teams began looking more dangerous on offense. Sacred Heart’s Luke Gagliardi blasted a swerving shot from the right side in the 73rd minute, but the ball was high and wide of the net of Travis Chulick ’10.
Moments after Yale supporters had collectively exhaled a sigh of relief, the visitors almost found the game-winner as a defensive lapse on the left side of the field gave Sacred Heart midfielder Jason Tessitore an open shot at net. Chulick made a great save from close range to keep the game scoreless.
Minutes later, midfielder Andy Shorten ’11 almost became the hero for Yale, but his left-footed blast went just high of the goal.
Following a first overtime with few offensive opportunities, both teams had chances to win the game during the second ten-minute period.
In the 105th minute, the Pioneers almost scored on a chaotic free-for-all in Yale’s penalty box after a free kick had been driven in from the right side of the field. Despite numerous attempts at goal, not a single shot even made its way to Chulick’s goal, with blue jerseys flying everywhere to block Sacred Heart’s attempts at a game-winner.
Three minutes later, the Bulldogs had their own chance, as midfielder Tyler Guse ’09 found Eric Meyer ’11 open on the left side after beating multiple Pioneer defenders. Yet after a cut-back move to the middle of the field, Meyer’s shot was also blocked by a defender.
After their impressive output of goals in their 4-1 defeat of Stony Brook on Wednesday, Yale’s offensive woes sent the team back to the drawing-board, looking to fix their mistakes.
“Offensively, it comes down to quality — completing those passes and executing,” said newly-converted center midfielder Jordan Raybould ’10, who began the season listed as a defender. “We held a lot of possessions, but never really tested their keeper.”
“We need to improve on keeping possession of the ball in the final third of the field,” he added.
With so much talk about Yale’s offensive ups and downs this year, the defense cannot be forgotten, especially after a game in which they posted their second shutout of the season. Despite giving up 19 shots and forcing Chulick into six saves, the defense looked composed in dealing with Sacred Heart’s pressure.
Although acknowledging the growing chemistry between him and his fellow defenders as a reason for their success on defense, Markus Jackson ’09 stressed the importance of strong defensive play at all positions on the field.
“Defense is a team thing,” he said. “We had very good pressure all over the field.”
As both teams struggled to find the net, the importance of the potential game-winning goal added to what had already been both a physically and emotionally intense game.
The teams committed a combined 39 fouls on the day — about 15 more compared to the four other games the Bulldogs have played in this year.
Jackson didn’t seem phased by the physical confrontations that marked his day, nonchalantly referring to the contact as if it were nothing but a little rain.
“When we train, we expect the game to be physical, so it wasn’t that surprising,” he said. “It was just another condition we had to deal with.”
Ball-handlers rarely had a second before opponents closed them down, contesting every pass. Raybould said the extra effort the team showed, especially when things got scrappy, is indicative of the strides the Bulldogs have taken since last season’s disappointing 4-8-5 record.
“In the scrum, everyone is doing what they can to win,” said Raybould. “These are not things we were doing last year. It shows our team is improving.”
The Bulldogs next travel to face another in-state rival, Quinnipiac, on Tuesday at 4 p.m.