On Saturday afternoon, the Yale men’s soccer team lost 1–0 at home to Dartmouth, a familiar result for a team whose record now stands at 1–9–0 for the season.
Despite a losing streak of five games, the match against Dartmouth (6–3–1, 2–0–0 Ivy) demonstrated a marked improvement over previous contests this season, and Yale did well to keep the defending Ivy League Champions at bay for the majority of the game’s 90 minutes. After a few particularly poor performances, the Yale defense took a positive step forward, showing more stability and resolve. Instead, it was the Yale attack that failed to establish itself against the Big Green.
“Yesterday was our best defensive game we’ve ever had this year,” forward Kyle Kenagy ’19 said. “Holding the Ivy League Champions to only one goal is somewhat of a defensive accomplishment, but our offense struggled against Dartmouth.”
Neither team was extremely active in the first 16 minutes of the game, with no shots registered on either side. However, once Dartmouth forced Yale keeper Kees Schipper ’19 to make the first of his five saves in the 17th minute, the Bulldogs were unable to muster much of an offensive response.
The Big Green rattled off four shots, three of which were on goal, before Yale finally managed its first shot of the game in the 38th minute. Keith Bond ’16 dribbled by the left post and struck from a tough angle, but was unable to beat goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland, a First-Team All-Ivy pick last season and the reigning Ivy League Player of the Week.
In the first half, Bond’s shot was the closest the Bulldogs got to the goal. Dartmouth had much better chances, but Yale made several strong clearances, averting an early deficit. When the ball did enter the box, Schipper held strong between the posts. In the 21st minute, Schipper did well to dive forward and pry away a rolling ball before a Dartmouth forward could send it into the empty net. Through the air, he was also strong, preemptively denying Dartmouth goal-scoring opportunities by interfering with crosses into the box.
After a scoreless first half, both teams returned to the pitch with greater offensive intensity. Midfielder Henry Albrecht ’17 dribbled into the box and served a cross, but his pass was intercepted by a Dartmouth defender. On more than one occasion, the Bulldogs saw their offensive attacks fizzle as multiple Eli crosses into the box failed to find a recipient.
In the 52nd minute, it was Dartmouth that managed to break through when senior midfielder Samuel Rosen struck a curling shot from 25 yards out. The ball eluded Schipper, who jumped to meet it, but was unable to bat the bending ball away. Still, unlike in previous matches — when the first goal conceded opened the floodgates for Yale’s opponents — Yale did not allow a second goal for the first time all season..
“The goal they scored was a really strong shot that there wasn’t much any of us could do about it beyond obviously denying the shot attempt,” defender Lucas Kirby ’19 said. “It wasn’t a soft goal to give up, where in past games, we’ve been giving up goals that were very easily defendable.”
The 1–0 scoreline displayed a vast improvement over the past two games, especially, in which the Elis allowed a combined eight goals.
The backline answered Dartmouth counterattacks well, and although the Big Green often raced forward into threatening territory, Yale’s defensive wall did not allow many of these attempts to score.
“Now that we’ve been playing together with this same group of four [defenders] in the backline for a few games now, we’ve started to settle into our roles and now know how to shift as a unit and communicate with each other,” Kirby explained.
Kirby also said there was a palpable improvement in the team’s one-on-one defending, which was the team’s Achilles heel last Tuesday against Rutgers. Still, despite progress in the defense, Yale’s offense regressed against the Big Green.
Yale’s best chance of the game came in the 59th minute from midfielder Ollie Iselin ’18, who ranks third in shots in the Ivy League. Iselin struck from 15 yards out but saw the ball just skim over the crossbar. Beyond that, Yale did not challenge the Dartmouth defense much and was outshot 12-6. Those six shots represent the team’s second lowest total of the season, as the team managed just five against Iona on Sept. 23.
“We really struggled in offensive transition,” Iselin said. “We need to relax and be confident which I think we can do given the encouraging performance against Dartmouth, one of the Ivy league’s strongest teams.”
Yale will look to enter the win column in Ivy League play next Saturday against Cornell. The match, which takes place at home at Reese Stadium, kicks off at 1 p.m.