Both the Yale and Central Connecticut State University men’s soccer teams have something to prove today. Last year, the two teams finished near the bottom of their respective conferences and will look to set the tone for a more successful campaign this season when they face off this afternoon at Reese Stadium.

Last season, the Bulldogs finished with a disappointing 3–12–2 record, while the Blue Devils did not fare much better with a record of 4–10–3. In 2009, Yale defeated CCSU 2–0, but last season, the Blue Devils returned the favor, beating the Bulldogs 3–0.

After dropping last week’s home opener to Vermont, CCSU is looking for its first win of the season. CCSU head coach Shaun Green said that the team played inconsistently last week as it brought in nine new players to its starting lineup. But that inconsistency was a communication issue, Green said, not one of experience.

Many of the Blue Devil’s new starters aren’t fledgling recruits, however, but experienced junior college transfers. Coach Green’s top three impact players are all former JC players, including two former team captains.

“Our major focus was in recruiting hungry kids,” coach Green said. “Within time I expect this to be a great team.”

After a strong preseason in August, Yale is looking to reverse its fortunes in today’s season opener. The Devils were picked to finish 10th of 12 in the Northeast Conference, but Dennen ’12 says the Yale team isn’t overlooking anybody this year.

“Last year they were an athletic team, very spirited — it’s not going to be an easy game by any means … they work hard,” Dennen said. “They have a lot of new players so [the game will be] definitely energetic and a tough test.”

Super senior and forward Brad Rose ’11, who led the team in the 2009 season with six goals and four assists, suffered an ankle injury 25 minutes into the first game of last season, but will be returning for another year after being granted a medical redshirt.

Yale missed Rose’s offensive ability last season, and was unable to keep possession on the opponent’s side of the field. Rose said he looks to have an immediate impact on the score tally, the only statistic that matters to Dennen.

“We don’t care if it’s pretty, as long as we come out with a victory we’ll be satisfied,” Dennen said. “We’ll win any way necessary.”

The Bulldog’s standout defender Andy Hackbarth ’12 will sit out the game with an injured shoulder. Hackbarth, an All-Ivy Honorable Mention in every season, has been one of Yale’s key penalty scoring threats. He was one of only three players to start all 17 games last season. His absence may affect Coach Tompkins’ plans for the defense.

“It is essential that we set and maintain a good defensive posture and work hard to win the ball,” Tompkins said. “That will be a key goal for us. … [I]t will directly influence the amount of possession we have in the game and set the tone for our offense.”

The severity of Hackbarth’s injury is unknown. Dennen, while acknowledging his teammate’s skill, said there are players ready to step up.

“We’re a very deep team with a lot of talent,” he said. “This team is not afraid, we’re ready to go and get after them. We have confidence.”

The teams will meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon at Reese Stadium.