Their comeback this weekend was a measure of how far the men’s soccer team has come this season.
The Bulldogs (7-7-3, 3-3-1 Ivy) bounced back from a second half deficit with a late strike from Aden Farina-Henry ’11 to force overtime against Princeton (5-9-3, 2-2-3 Ivy) at Reese Stadium on Saturday. Neither team was able to find the net in the extra frames and the game ended in a 2-2 tie.
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Head coach Brian Tompkins called Farina-Henry’s goal an indication of the team’s drive to compete.
“Credit to our guys, they fought their way back into the game, and we scored on an excellent equalizer,” he said. “I think that shows the character of our team. We’ve grown a lot this season in terms of our competitive character, and I think that really showed.”
All eight seniors saw time on the team’s Senior Day, and defender Max Rhodes ’09 scored his first career goal off a free-kick cross from midfielder Sam Post ’09 in the first half of play.
For Rhodes, Saturday’s game was a clear example of how close the team has grown this season.
“It was a good way to finish my career because although we didn’t get the result that we were looking for [the Ivy League championship], I feel that the team was more together this year than it has been in any previous year, except maybe my freshman year,” Rhodes said. “That was really on display yesterday. We had a lot of guys get in and get to play … There was a real atmosphere of camaraderie before during and after the game.”
The visiting Tigers got off to a strong start in the first half, but it was the home team who opened the scoring through Rhodes. After forward Liam Leonard ’09 drew a foul near the right corner flag, Post’s bent free-kick found Rhodes unmarked in the penalty box. Rhodes headed the ball confidently into the upper-right corner of the net to give his team the lead in the 28th minute.
As the rain began falling down on Reese Stadium, the visitors grabbed the equalizer 10 minutes later on a great individual effort from Antoine Hoppenot. The speedy midfielder raced down the right side of the field, and despite some contact, took the ball all the way to the endline, where he found defender Devin Muntz open on the far post for an easy tap in.
Brown continued putting pressure on the Bulldogs during the final 10 minutes of the half, as the home team struggled to retain possession. The Bears used through balls and the speed of their offensive players to find holes in Yale’s defense, but were unable to score before the halftime whistle sounded.
Brown did not waste any time to begin pressuring the Elis in the second half. Midfielder/forward Brandon Busch picked up an errant pass within the first 15 seconds of play, but his low shot was saved by Chulick, who had five saves on the day.
Princeton’s effective use of through balls finally paid dividends in the 62nd minute when Hoppenot drew a penalty kick. With only the goalie left to beat, Hoppenot beat Chulick to the left, before getting his legs taken out by the Yale goalkeeper. Although Chulick guessed right, Busch confidently buried the penalty kick into the lower left corner of the net.
Whereas the Bulldogs might not have managed to tie the game up again earlier on this season, Farina-Henry’s equalizer in the 74th minute is a testament to the progress the team’s young offense has made this season. Yale moved the ball up the field from their own goal in a matter of seconds on the right side of the field. The goal started out with Chulick playing a short goal kick to Jordan Raybould ’10, who found a streaking Jon Carlos ’10 open on the wing with a precisely chipped through ball. Near the corner of the field, Carlos played the ball back to Raybould, who sent a cross into Farina-Henry. The sophomore striker headed the ball to the far post, and a lucky bounce on the inside of the woodwork evened the score up at 2-2.
According to Raybould, the repeated use of the long ball up the wing was in response to Princeton’s unconventional 3-5-2 formation.
“[Princeton plays a] 3-5-2 with three center midfielders, so there was space in the lanes,” he said. “[Princeton’s] outside mid on our side wasn’t as fast as Jon Carlos … Whenever I would get it, JC would check to me, and then turn and take off.”
Raybould also acknowledged that Princeton’s formation prevented the Bulldogs from possessing through the midfield, due to their extra center midfielder. The problem was compounded by the fact that one of Yale’s regular center midfielders, Andy Hackbarth ’12, sat out due to a concussion sustained last weekend against Brown.
The two 10-minute overtime periods did not see many quality chances on net, except for a half volley by Ben Harms with less than two minutes remaining in the second overtime. The striker found himself all alone near the goal on the left side of the field, but his shot sailed just over the crossbar.
The tie enabled the Elis to pass Princeton and Brown in Ivy League standings and into sole possession of fourth place. The prospect of moving up in conference standings was in the back of players’ minds during overtime, making them weary of giving up a goal to Princeton, which would have instead moved the Tigers into fourth place, Raybould said.
Captain and defender Alex Guzinski ’09 admitted that although it is hard not to think of what could have happened had a few games gone a bit differently, he was proud of the way the team bounced back from its slow start to finish the season strongly.
“It was a tough season, but everyone is content with how it ended,” he said. “Obviously we would have wanted more, but with the way we started, its definitely something to be happy about that we fought our way back and finished in the top half [of the Ivy League]. It’s been a wild ride.”
As for the departing seniors, Tompkins described the class of 2009’s impact in a variety of areas.
“We measure their performance on the field, and clearly it’s been a really significant group for us,” he said. “We also measure them in terms of leadership. The resiliency you see in our team, the character, is very much a reflection of the leadership of the seniors. And we measure them in terms of citizenship — it’s as good a group of people as I’ve been associated with at Yale.”