The momentum the men’s soccer team has recently accumulated ground to a halt last night at Reese Stadium.
The Bulldogs (2-2-2) were unable to hold an early lead as they dropped a 2-1 overtime contest against Rhode Island (3-4) to put an end to their two-game winning streak.
Freshman standout forward Scott Armbrust ’13 opened the scoring in the 16th minute off a feed from forward Brad Rose ’11, but a second-half strike from URI’s Erkko Puranen ultimately sent the contest into overtime. Ram substitute Greg Balicki completed the away squad’s comeback when he notched the game-winner less than five minutes into the first overtime period.
“Their pressure was very good today; they played like a team with their backs against the wall,” head coach Brian Tompkins said about Rhode Island, which was coming off a 5-0 loss to Brown. “They fought hard, put us under a lot of pressure. They played a lot of long balls and we struggled to cope with it … The quality of our passing and our composure wasn’t what it needed to be.”
Neither team managed to take control of the game from the get-go, as sporadic scoring chances replaced prolonged periods of possession. 10 minutes into the game, outside midfielder Kevin Pope ’10 saw his slow-rolling shot cleared off the line by a Ram defender after having beaten Rhode Island goalkeeper Chris Pennock around, but it was Armbrust who broke the tie six minutes later. Armbrust controlled a flick from fellow forward Rose and powered a half-volley past Pennock into the top-left corner of the net. The Rams have now been outscored 7-1 in the first half this year.
Armbrust — who was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week after his two-goal performance against St. Francis (N.Y.) last Saturday — and Rose have either scored or assisted on Yale’s five previous goals.
“We’ve been combining pretty well, moving the off the ball, and getting into good spots — it makes it easier to combine with each other,” Rose said about what is quickly becoming Tompkins’ first-choice combination at forward.
Armbrusts’s goal marked his fourth tally of the season, putting him in fourth place in the Ivy League standings.
“Scott’s been great,” Rose said. “I think his goal to shot percentage is around 50 right now. He’s been carrying us and some other guys need to step up so we can start winning some games.”
The Bulldogs responded positively to their opening strike and managed to settle down and retain possession for longer stretches of time, but the Rams stayed dangerous by playing long balls through to their speedy forwards.
The combination of URI’s incessant pressure on Yale’s back line and the absence of experienced central defender Andy Hackbarth ’12 — who missed the game due to a sore ankle — caused a young back-line to appear hesitant all game long.
“When you have inexperienced guys, you need someone who can calm things,” Tompkins said. “Not having [Hackbarth] certainly affected our composure.”
Marcus DiLallo ’12, who had been pairing up with Hackbarth in central defense, noted that although Hackbarth’s absence was noticeable, he had played alongside his replacement, Tony Wilbar ’13, during the preseason.
“Ideally teams don’t pressure the back as much, but when a team comes at you fast, you have to make decisions and not just kick the ball away,” DiLallo added. “The whole game was long balls and high pressure … athleticism, speed and long balls on both sides.”
The Rams looked poised to equalize in the last two minutes of the contest, but a pair of hard shots from close range by Jamie Eckmayer and Ram defender Domenic Petrarca were blocked by Bulldog defenders.
Rhode Island head coach must have said something that stuck to his players, because the Rams came out storming after the half-time restart.
Puranen almost capitalized in the opening minutes of the half when he controlled a bouncing ball in the box and drove an unsaveable volley into the lower right corner. Luckily for the home team, the shot careened off the post and out of harm’s way.
“We just didn’t compete as well as they did,” Rose said in regards to his team’s second-half struggles. “They high-pressed us and we didn’t play our game.”
The Rams kept the Elis on their feet and were eventually rewarded when Puranen finally found the back of the net. After a number of arguably questionable calls on both sides of the ball, the referee awarded URI with a free kick near the left corner of the penalty box. Ram midfielder Andres Ruiz laid the ball off for Puranen to blast a low shot into the lower right corner of the net amidst a slew of bodies in the penalty box.
Yale goalkeeper Travis Chulick ’10 preserved the tie midway through the second half when he came out strongly to prevent Puranen from getting a clean shot off from close range. Puranen was wide open in the middle after Eckmayer played a great ball in from the wing, but the Finnish transplant’s messy first touch prevented him from finishing the opportunity. But this was not the last time that this combo would cause trouble for the Bulldog defense.
It was Yale’s turn to see an attempt at goal bounce off the frame — this time in the closing minutes of regulation time. The Bulldogs had a long throw-in deep in URI territory with about three minutes left find its way to the far post, where Pope was waiting for a wide open header. The senior midfielder’s goal attempt ricochetted off the crossbar, meaning that both teams would be privy to sudden-death overtime.
And it didn’t take long for the Rams to stun the home team.
URI was rewarded for persisting with its bread-and-butter play of sending a long ball up the wing to the speedy Eckmayer. The freshman forward played a precise cross to a wide-open Puranen in front of the goal, but the sophomore muffled the attempt and was unable to get a shot off. Yet Yale was unable to clean the ball clearly, enabling Balicki to one-time a shot into the empty net from the far post.
The Rams finished the contest with a 15-10 advantage in shots, and a 6-3 edge in corners.
The Bulldogs have a week to rest before a 4 p.m. contest at nearby rival Sacred Heart next Tuesday.
“We’re a work in progress,” Tompkins said. “We’ll learn some lessons by winning, some by losing.”