Over the next few days, the Yale men’s soccer team will have a familiar goal in its matches against Quinnipiac University and Iona College: to finally win.
After last weekend’s two losses to the University of California Santa Barbara and Temple, Yale’s winless streak now extends to 10 games, the same number of games it took Yale to finally net a win last season. Goalkeeper Ryan Simpson ’17 recognized the parallels between this year’s start and last year’s record, but asserted that despite the similar results, the Bulldogs are actually playing much better than what their record suggests. He credited this to their high fitness base, a component missing from the past year’s campaign.
Nicky Downs ’19, a midfielder who was not part of last year’s unsuccessful squad, viewed training as unaffected by the losses.
“You have to stick to what you’ve been doing, trust in the preparation and keep doing the little things right — preparing well, eating right, getting enough rest and then training hard,” Downs said.
On Saturday, Yale will attempt to translate this practical regimen to results as it takes on local rival Quinnipiac (0–4–1, 0–0–0 Metro Atlantic) for its second home game of the season. Though the Bobcats are defending Metro Atlantic Conference regular season champions, a title they have won for three years straight, it seems that their extraordinary success has hit an impasse.
For the first time in four years, the Bobcats are playing without goalkeeper Borja Angoitia, who was named to last season’s Eastern College Athletic Conference’s All-Star Team, and forward Machel Baker, who played a part in 22 of the team’s 26 goals last season. Both players graduated last year and their presence has been sorely missed, as Quinnipiac has just two goals and zero wins in five matches this season, a far cry from the 13-game unbeaten streak that highlighted last season.
Despite its stellar play in recent years, Quinnipiac barely beat Yale the last time the two teams met in a 1–0 overtime contest. According to Simpson, the Bulldogs seemed to be moments away from scoring for much of the game.
Head coach Kylie Stannard described Quinnipiac as a very attacking-oriented team, and said that Yale would strategize by catching the Bobcats on breakaways and counterattacking.
“When teams play like that, they expose themselves a little bit, and we’ll try to look to attack quickly once we win the ball,” Stannard said.
The Quinnipiac team is also unique in that its team boasts a plethora of international players, who hail from as far away as New Zealand and Trinidad.
Still, Simpson maintained that a global roster does not intimidate the Bulldogs.
“It doesn’t matter where they’re from and doesn’t matter how good they are,” he said. “We don’t look at anything more than their jersey number and how they played in the previous game.”
After Saturday’s match, the Bulldogs will travel on Wednesday to New Rochelle, New York to take on Quinnipiac’s conference foe, Iona (3–2–1, 0–0–0 MAAC). The Gaels finished runner-up in conference play to Quinnipiac last season, but unlike the Bobcats, they seem to be adjusting well to the loss of their star player, forward Ignacio Maganto, who was drafted to the L.A. Galaxy of Major League Soccer after last season. The Gaels are not deficient in the attacking department without Maganto, as they average 1.5 goals per game this season.
Similar to the last Quinnipiac game, Yale seemed to have a good shot at beating Iona in the two teams’ last contest, even going ahead within the first 30 seconds. However, as was the theme last season, Yale managed to squander the lead and lose 2–1.
Still, the Bulldogs are optimistic for upcoming matchup, believing that the opponent’s characteristic play meshes well with their own.
“[Iona’s] playing style actually complements us because they’re a big, tall team that does well on set pieces,” Simpson said. “But we haven’t given up a goal on set pieces yet and we’re a bit quicker, a little bit smaller and we can move the ball a little bit better.”
Ultimately, no matter the results so far, the season is still young and all teams, according to Stannard, currently face the same challenge of defining themselves.
“All of these teams, both Quinnipiac and Iona and ourselves are still trying to figure themselves out — which are the best groups of players working together within the lineups?” Stannard said.
Kickoff against Quinnipiac is at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Wednesday’s game against Iona begins at 4:30 p.m.