Once again, the final score of the men’s soccer game did not adequately reflect the nature of the game. Yet this time, Yale (4-4-1, 0-1 Ivy) was on the opposite side, as the Bulldogs were outplayed by Ivy foe Harvard (4-4, 1-0 Ivy) in a misleadingly close 1-0 loss in Cambridge on Saturday.
The Crimson dominated Yale for most of the game, but a goal from Harvard’s Kwaku Nyamekye in the 59th minute was the only thing separating the two teams at the final whistle.
Harvard outshot the Bulldogs, 25-7, but stellar play by goalie Travis Chulick ’10 kept the visitors in the game for the full 90 minutes. Chulick finished with six saves on the day.
Yet it was the quality and not the quantity of Chulick’s stops that stood out. More than once, Chulick made remarkable reflex saves to keep the Cantabs at bay.
“Travis was the man of the match,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “Today was his best game: He was responsible for the [final 1-0] score.”
Chulick, though, was quick to acknowledge that his team’s solid defensive performance against a talented Harvard offense — including Second Team All-Americans Andre Akpan and Michael Fucito — was a team effort.
“They had a good offense,” Chulick said. “But our defense played well. We have four great guys in front of me.”
Four Yale senior defenders, captain Alex Guzinski ’09, Frank Piasta ’09, Markus Jackson ’09 and Max Rhodes ’09 played almost the whole game and had a major role in blocking 10 of the Crimson’s 25 shots.
Offensively, the Bulldogs never looked composed with the ball, and struggled to retain possession for much of the game. Their only two shots on goal came in the first half and did not seriously trouble Crimson goalie Austin Harms. Harvard defenders were quick in closing down Eli ball handlers and were very physical when they put pressure on the Bulldogs.
Yet according to center midfielder Jordan Raybould ’10, mistakes on the part of Yale players hurt the team’s offense more than Harvard’s aggressiveness on the field.
“As soon as we entered the offensive third, we would just make mistakes,” he said. “It wasn’t necessarily their pressure. It was more [our] decision-making and technical errors.”
According to Tompkins, his team’s struggles on offense were also due to a lack of patience.
“At times, we were a bit hasty with the ball,” he said. “Our goal is to be quick, but we don’t want to hurry. We just didn’t give our attacks time to develop.”
Tompkins, who could not coach his team from the sidelines because he received a red card in the team’s last game against Army on Tuesday, was replaced by assistant coach George Kostelis for the day.
The Crimson got off to a quick start, with Akpan getting in behind the Bulldog defense for a one-on-one with Chulick in the seventh minute. Despite diving the wrong way, the Yale keeper still made a great kick save.
The home team continued to put pressure on the Bulldogs, and almost scored on one of its seven corners of the day. Akpan was once again denied at close range, as the Cantab forward’s header deflected off multiple Eli defenders before getting cleared.
Chulick was forced into another reflex save in the 32nd minute, when Cantab Luke Sager blasted a shot into the lower-right corner of the goal. Despite a crowded penalty box, Chulick was able to stop the Crimson’s last quality scoring chance of the half.
As the first wound down, the away team was finally able to string passes together and move the ball into the attacking third of the field. Both Piasta and forward Charlie Neil ’12 had shots on goal in the last 10 minutes of the half but were unable to convert.
Despite Yale’s late resurgence in the first, the Crimson came out firing after halftime. Harvard managed four shots in the first 10 minutes, but two were blocked and the other two were not on goal. The home team finally got the lead in the 59th minute on a scrappy goal from Nyamekye. Harvard’s John Stamatis shot low on a free-kick just outside of the box, and the ball found its way through the wall. After taking deflections off Yale defenders, the ball came to Nyamekye in front of the goal, and all that was left for the junior midfielder to do was slot the ball into the left corner of the net.
As the Elis pushed to find an equalizer, Harvard was able to capitalize on Yale turnovers and counterattack with speed. Chulick once again kept his team in the game, making two great close-range saves on shots from Stamatis and Akpan in the 81st and 82nd minutes.
Yet it was all for naught, as the Bulldogs were never able to get a good look at an equalizer before the final whistle sounded.
Despite the loss, Guzinski said, this was only one game and the conference is by no means out of the team’s reach.
“The big thing is not to be too hard on ourselves,” he said. “We lost, but we’re not out of the Ivy League hunt yet. There’s still a lot to play for. We’re still in it and every game still matters.”
The Bulldogs now have a week to prepare for their second Ancient Eight matchup, at Dartmouth on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
“We should have a week of hard, intense practice,” Guzinksi added. “We’ll work out the kinks from this weekend and hopefully reapply ourselves next weekend.”