The men’s soccer team’s games against Fairfield and Lehigh this weekend were nearly indistinguishable: 1–0 losses in which the Bulldogs outshot their opponent but allowed a goal on a controversial penalty call.
Both games showed signs of last year’s Bulldogs, who boasted a strong defense but inefficient offense for the entire season. Yale (1–3–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) also lost 1–0 to both the Stags and the Mountain Hawks in 2012.
The stagnant offensive performance was especially disappointing for the Elis after coming off a 4–1 win over Sacred Heart (2–4–0, 0–0–0 NEC) the previous Tuesday.
“One of our goals is to be much more dangerous offensively, and I think we’ve accomplished that,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “We’ve outshot every team that we’ve played so far but our actual execution when it comes to goal scoring chances hasn’t quite been where we need it to be … We’ve got speed, we’ve got skill, size and strength, so it’s just a question of execution now.”
In Friday’s home opener against Fairfield (1–1–1, 0–0–0 MAAC), both teams started the game off slowly with just one shot each after 20 minutes of play.
Yale held possession for the majority of the first half and created numerous offensive opportunities along the sideline, many of which were either flushed out by Fairfield defenders or turned into corners that the Bulldogs could not capitalize on.
“I think that what we need to do as a team is twofold. First, we have to sharpen our execution in the final third of the field,” defender Nick Alers ’14 said. “The final ball is not always executed to the extent that it should be. That’s an issue of technique that we’ll work on with lots of repetitions in practice over the next week. The second thing is more of an effort thing, and that’s just being ruthless, to have a certain hunger for goals and to want it more than the other team. That’s getting numbers in the box, that’s fighting for loose balls and getting anything we can on the ball to get it in the back of the net.”
At the end of the first half, the Yale defense had allowed just one shot and one corner kick. Defender Henry Flugstad-Clarke ’17 was key in the performance, as he slid to stop a threatening Fairfield through ball midway through the half and later managed to stop a dangerous Fairfield two-on-one situation.
The Bulldogs continued to press the Stags in the second half with two shots and three corners in the first 15 minutes of the half, but again were unable to get the ball past Fairfield goalkeeper Joe Martin.
The Stags got their second shot of the game midway through the half, when defender Matt Danaher fired a shot off the crossbar.
In the 71st minute, Fairfield forward Reco McLaren dribbled the ball down the side of Yale’s penalty box and fell to the ground after contact with a Yale defender, and the referee awarded the Stags a penalty kick. Forward Jon Clements stepped up to the penalty spot and hit the shot passed Yale goalkeeper Blake Brown ’15 to take a 1–0 lead. At that point in the game, Yale held a 9–2 lead in shots.
“I felt that the penalty on Friday was very, very harsh,” Tompkins said. “We were pressing them … and the penalty, which was controversial, I think …it took our momentum away.”
The Bulldogs came close to retaliating shortly after the goal was scored with many offensive opportunities, but none of the chances turned into shots. In the final minute of the game, Albrecht rushed to take a free kick from just outside the box with the clock winding down and struck the ball right at the keeper.
“I was really pleased on Friday that our guys persisted and kept looking for a goal, but we weren’t able to find one,” Tompkins said.
By the end of the game, Yale had outshot Fairfield 13–4, with three of the shots taken by forward Cameron Kirdzik ’17.
The game was similar to the Elis’ contest against Fairfield last season, in which they lost 1–0 after outshooting the Stags 9–8.
Yale’s offense came out stronger against the Mountain Hawks (1–3–1, 0–0–0 Patriot) Sunday, as the team managed three shots within the first 10 minutes of the game. Peter Jacobson ’14, who scored a hat trick against Sacred Heart last Tuesday, rocketed a shot off the hands of diving Lehigh keeper Kevin Motylewski less than a minute into the game, and Kevin Michalak ’15 hit the post with a hard free kick after a foul.
In the 35th minute, a Lehigh forward ran onto a long pass near the top of the Yale box as Brown went for the ball. The Lehigh player ran into Brown, stayed on his feet for five more yards and then fell down, resulting in a yellow card for Brown, a penalty shot and eventually, a 1–0 lead for the Mountain Hawks.
“[We find] ourselves making one minor lapse in each game that the other team unfortunately has been able to take advantage of,” Alers said.
Yale was unable to retaliate for the rest of the half and headed into the locker room down a goal despite outshooting Lehigh 7–6 in the half.
The second half featured close scoring opportunities for both sides, including four corner kicks for the Bulldogs and a diving save by Brown on a hard Lehigh shot.
Yale had the ball in Lehigh’s zone for the last minute of the game, in which the Elis set up several scoring chances, including a corner kick, but could not get a shot off. Time expired just after the corner kick for the Bulldogs’ second 1–0 loss in a row.
Yale outshot Lehigh 13–10 in the game and took five corners while the Mountain Hawks had just one.
The Bulldogs now prepare for their trip to California this weekend for games against UC Santa Barbara (3–2–0, 0–0–0 Big West) and Cal Poly (3–2–0, 0–0–0 Big West). The trip will be the team’s first to California in almost 20 years.
“We’re playing two teams that are potential top-10, top-15 caliber teams, so we know we’re going to have our hands full,” Tompkins said. “It’ll be a different style of soccer.”
To prepare for the weekend, Tompkins said the team will focus on scoring goals with better ball movement and finishing.
“It’s really exciting to get to travel to California and play at some other places in the nation,” said midfielder Jenner Fox ’14, who attended Palo Alto High School. “I’m especially excited because I’m from California. We have a lot of California guys who are going to be able to have family and friends see us play.”
The Bulldogs will square off against UC Santa Barbara on Friday at 7 p.m. Pacific Time, 10 p.m. Eastern Time.