The Yale men’s soccer team extended its losing streak to three games this past weekend when the Bulldogs lost to Harvard at home in an intense rivalry matchup.
Despite the 3–1 scoreline, the match was far from one-sided, and Yale (1–7–0, 0–1–0 Ivy) was competitive even up to the game’s waning moments. The Bulldogs were the first to get on the board with an early goal by midfielder Nicky Downs ’19, and although an own goal quickly ended that early Eli lead, the Crimson never held more than a one-goal lead until a penalty kick in the 89th minute of play. Nevertheless, Eli players were quick to point out they did not feel they had earned a better result.
“It’s definitely disappointing, [because] we’ve been working hard, training hard and [we] put up a really good fight, but you can’t get into the mindset that you deserve something to go better,” midfielder Saul Downie ’18 said. “You just have to go out there and make it better.”
Within the first two minutes, the Crimson (2–4–2, 1–0–0) saw the first goal chance of the game as a long Harvard ball cut across the box. Goalkeeper Kees Schipper ’19 dove to his left and got one hand on it, deflecting it just enough to see it roll harmlessly out of play.
Five minutes later, it was the Bulldogs who took the early lead through Downs’ first career goal. Midfielder Archie Kinnane ’18 passed a corner ball to midfielder Henry Albrecht ’17, who then fed it to an unmarked Downs. The Harvard goalkeeper could only watch over his shoulder as Downs’ shot smashed the upper right corner.
“It was something we drew up this week, and we trained [the set piece play] a decent amount in practice, although not as successfully as it ended up working out in the game,” Downs said. “The [pass by Albrecht] was really good. I had enough space to get the shot off, and I just hit it and it went in. You catch a lucky break once in a while.”
The goal wasn’t Downs’ only bright spot in the game — he repeatedly earned applause for outsmarting and outmaneuvering a host of Harvard defenders.
After Downs’ goal, however, Yale’s defense failed to maintain the 1–0 lead. Seven minutes later, Schipper moved forward to defend a dangerous Harvard ball, but a mix-up saw captain and defender Philip Piper ’16 pass the ball back to an empty Yale goal. The Bulldogs were helpless as the ball crept into the net behind them.
Still, Yale’s first half ended as the best opening frame for the Elis since their win over Quinnipiac on Sept. 19. Unlike the previous two matches, when the Eli were held shotless in the first 45 minutes, the Bulldog attack in Saturday’s match regularly threatened the Harvard wall. At halftime, the only Crimson goal was off the foot of a Yale player.
The second half, however, saw Harvard come out of the locker room with more energy, outshooting Yale 3–1 in the minutes leading up to the Crimson’s second goal. Harvard forward Jake Freeman dove to head in a long cross that put Harvard ahead for its first lead of the night — and the first multi-goal game for the Crimson since its win over Stony Brook on Sept. 13.
Yale had several chances in the final 20 minutes to equalize. The contest was not over until a Harvard player was found down in the box two minutes from time and a penalty was called against Piper, who was visibly upset with the call. Schipper dove to the left as Crimson midfielder Tim Schmoll tapped the penalty to the right, effectively sealing the result of the match.
In an otherwise tight contest from start to finish, the difference, perhaps, was the own goal. In addition to Downs, midfielder Ollie Iselin ’18 also played particularly well, accounting for six of Yale’s 10 shots. But the Bulldogs could not maintain their offensive intensity throughout the game, a problem they have struggled with throughout the 2015 season. Yale lost efficiency in the second half and only reclaimed it in the closing minutes while searching for an equalizer.
Goalkeeper Ryan Simpson ’17, who has been out with a leg injury for four games, said the attack is the area that the Bulldogs will focus on in the coming week of practice.
“Defensively, again, we were really strong and the goals we let in were just lapses — small lapses — but it’s all preventable stuff,” Simpson said. “I think we’re going to work on putting more balls in the back of the net, and we’ll look to be more effective doing that moving forward.”
Ivy play takes a pause on Tuesday as Yale faces Rutgers on the road. On Saturday, the Elis will return home and attempt to regroup for their next conference match against Dartmouth, the defending Ivy League champions. The match kicks off at 4 p.m.