The men’s soccer team once again tested itself against one of the nation’s premier teams. They once again passed the test, sort of.
Despite being outshot 24-6 by a talented No. 15 UConn (7-3-5) squad, the Bulldogs (5-6-2, 1-2 Ivy) limited the Huskies’ quality scoring chances in 0-0 double overtime tie at Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn.
According to captain and defender Alex Guzinski ’09, the team’s defense was willing to let the Huskies possess in order to limit good looks on goals. Yale goalkeeper Travis Chulick ’10 was forced in to making seven saves en route to his sixth shutout of the year.
“It was a very strategic game on our part,” Guzinski said. “We did a very good job of keeping them in front of us…Their style is very much possession, we knew that. We let them pass the ball in the back.”
The result of this, according to Guzinski, was a lot of chances from distance for the Huskies.
Despite the continuous pressure from UConn, Yale’s defense held strong, and they were able to control the ball for spells of the game and get a few quality chances of their own.
“Today I was pleased with the way we preserved and created some chances,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “It looks like we were overwhelmed, but we weren’t. In the first half of overtime, we had most of the chances.”
It was during the first overtime period that the Bulldogs had their best goal-scoring opportunity. Within the first minute of play, the Elis found themselves on a 3 vs. 3 with Andy Shorten ’11 in possession. The forward beat a Husky defender, but his shot went just wide of Josh Ford’s goal.
Yale’s best chances during regulation came in the 55th minute on a Guzinski free kick and in the 71st minute by midfielder Andy Hackbarth ’12. Both attempts were saved by Ford.
According to players, UConn’s strong defense indirectly forced the Bulldogs to improve their play on offense. In order to deal with the Husky’s speed on defense, the team used quick combination play, such as give and go’s, overlapping runs, and forwards’ lay-offs to midfielders. Yet according to Guzinski, these combination plays fit right into the teams’ strengths.
“It’s come a long way from the beginning of the season,” Guzinski said. “Our guys are very good at setting up plays like that. That’s our strength.”
Midfielder and forward Jon Carlos ’10 also noted his team’s adept ball movement neutralized an aggressive Husky defense.
“UConn is really good at pressuring on one side of the field,” Carlos said. “If we made a quick switch, we were able to bring it up on the other side.”
Although the team’s scoring woes continued, they still see many positive aspects out of their gritty performance in Storrs.
“It’s always a difficult place to play,” Tompkins said. “But I thought we came up with a really scrappy, competitive performance. We worked hard for the tie, absorbed lots of pressure, but had our own chances to win the game.”
The result against UConn is the third strong performance for the Bulldogs in a row. Besides convincingly defeating Cornell 3-0 last Saturday, the Elis showed their worth in two close games against national powerhouses BC and UConn. Although Tompkins said he was still not satisfied with all aspects of his team’s play, he acknowledged the progress his squad has been making.
“We’ve proven we can be competitive with them [BC and UConn],” he said. “We’ve shown some good signs in both of those games. Certainly we’re pleased with our progress.”
The apparent moral victory of the tie gives the Bulldogs some momentum heading into an important Ivy League contest against Penn at Reese Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m.