The Yale men’s soccer team suffered a familiar fate Saturday night, losing at home to Rhode Island 3–0.
After dropping last Wednesday’s match against Iona, the Bulldogs (1–6–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) were hoping to rediscover the form that led to their dominant display over local rival Quinnipiac the previous Saturday, but were unable to do so. While other losses this season were close, and could potentially have gone either way, Yale was not able to muster much of a challenge against a strong Rhode Island (5–4–0, 0–0–0 Atlantic 10) team.
Despite the lopsided score, the Bulldogs did not feel outmatched by the Rams, and took full responsibility for the loss.
“We’re giving up shots that we shouldn’t be and not marking people that we should be and it’s 100 percent on us,” captain Philip Piper ’16 said after the game.
Rhode Island controlled possession much of the first half, pressing forward and shooting six times, but the Yale defense managed to hold its line for a good portion of the 45 minutes. In only his third career start, goalkeeper Kees Schipper ’19 made two key saves to prevent the Rams from going up early on, but was unable to stop a shot in the 38th minute as Yale’s defensive wall finally broke. Off of a corner kick, midfielder Ryan Bailey smashed the ball into the net, out of Schipper’s reach, to open the scoring.
Three minutes later, the Bulldog defense was exposed yet again as the Rams doubled their lead. Senior forward Ryan Oakley crossed the ball into the 18-yard box and freshman forward Emil Jesman Sunde capitalized, scoring from 12 yards out.
Coach Kylie Stannard thought that the first goal represented a lapse in both the team’s physical and mental defenses.
“I thought we actually defended really well until we gave up the first goal,” Stannard said. “Unfortunately, the heads went down a little bit after that and we conceded a second goal.”
Midfielder Lucas Kirby ’19, who has been featured in all seven matches for the Bulldogs this season, agreed with Stannard’s assessment, stating that it was difficult for the team to regain focus after those critical mistakes.
Despite the back-to-back goals, the defense could not be blamed entirely for the first-half performance. The Yale attack struggled immensely, recording no shots. Misplaced passes, well-timed Rhode Island tackles and swarming defenders rendered the Bulldogs’ attacks fruitless, and the Elis rarely penetrated the Rams’ half of the pitch.
The tide appeared to turn at the beginning of the second half, as Yale returned to the field with more aggression and offensive energy. However, the team failed to stop the Rams yet again — allowing their opponents to score their third goal of the night 20 minutes into the second half, when Dominik Richter dribbled past a crew of Yale defenders to score from 20 yards out.
Yale created some of its best chances of the night immediately afterwards. Substitute Ollie Iselin ’18 struck a shot off the crossbar in the 66th minute. Not a minute later, the Rhode Island goalkeeper was called into action for the first time all game when he was forced to save Cameron Kirdzik’s ’17 header off of a corner.
The Bulldogs played at their highest level of intensity in the closing few minutes of the game as they searched for a consolation goal. Iselin hit the post yet again and seconds later, in a frantic back-and-forth in the box, the Bulldogs came very close to breaking through, but were unable to find the back of the net.
“I thought we came out with some decent energy in the second half and I was really happy with the way we finished the game,” Stannard said. “But unfortunately, we have to do a better job of not allowing goals that we can easily fix.”
Saturday night’s match was the second in a row in which Yale was held shotless for the first 45 minutes and the second straight matchup that saw the defense concede two goals in quick succession. These errors are representative of larger problems, namely a lack of offensive energy and sustained focus. Both aspects must be fixed quickly if the Bulldogs want to contend for the Ivy League title, with Ancient Eight action set to begin this weekend.
Stannard said the team will look past its results thus far to start with a clean slate and refocus its energy towards conference matches. Similarly, Kirby expressed optimism for the remaining games, explaining that Yale’s record leaves the team no worse off than many of its Ivy League foes.
“Honestly, the Ivy League is wide open right now. About half the teams either have one win or even zero wins for a couple of them,” Kirby said. “We’re not at any disadvantage and we’re going to go in with the same goal, which is to be Ivy League champions at the end of the season.”
That goal will face its first big test this Saturday when the Bulldogs host the Crimson. The rivalry match kicks off at Reese Stadium at 7 p.m.