Trailing by one goal with just eight seconds left on Saturday afternoon, the Yale men’s soccer team delivered possibly its most thrilling moment of the year: a game-tying goal from forward Nicky Downs ’19 to force overtime against Cornell.
But in the end, another own goal — Yale’s third of the season — paired with a header in the waning moments of overtime proved to be one goal too many for the Bulldogs (1–10–0, 0–3–0 Ivy) to overcome in a crushing 2–1 defeat to the Big Red (3–9–1, 1–2–0).
“It’s disappointing for us to get [that] result and we felt like we deserved more, but we can’t just blame our results on luck as we have to create luck for ourselves at this point,” defender Lucas Kirby ’19 said.
The Bulldogs played one of their most attack-oriented matches of the season, bouncing back from last week’s poor offensive performance against Dartmouth in which the team managed just six shots. However, much of that offensive activity came in the second half of play.
For the fifth time in the last six games, the first half was a quiet time for the Yale offense, allowing the defense to take center stage. While the Bulldogs mustered a single shot on goal during the first half, Cornell took four cracks at the net but was denied each time by goalkeeper Kees Schipper ’19. Both teams entered the halftime intermission scoreless.
In the 58th minute, a Cornell player crossed the ball into the box and although Schipper came off of his line to punch away the scoring opportunity, the defended ball deflected off captain and defender Philip Piper ’16 and bounced back toward Yale’s open net. Defender Cameron Riach ’19 tried to clear the ball off the line but his attempt found the back of the net for the first goal of the day.
Following the critical mistake, Yale responded with a sense of urgency that translated into a flurry of opportunities. In the remaining minutes of the second half following the own goal, Yale outshot Cornell 7–1.
“We tried to possess the ball more and let Cornell run themselves out of the game,” Kyle Kenagy ’19 said. “I thought it worked, as we had the majority of possession and accumulated more chances towards the end of the game.”
Yale’s first promising attempt at leveling the scoreline came in the 65th minute off a throw-in when midfielder Dylan Onderdonk-Snow ’17 headed the ball to his left, but Big Red goalkeeper Mitchell Meyer was there to intercept the shot. Piper also had a chance to equalize when he found himself with only the goalkeeper to beat from just outside the six-yard box, but his scuffed shot rolled right into Meyer’s hands.
With the array of unconverted chances and the likelihood of falling to 0–3 in conference play mounting as the game neared the end of regulation time, the Bulldogs found themselves with one last chance for an attack with mere moments left before the final whistle.
Piper, with less than 15 seconds remaining in the contest, lobbed a pass out of desperation into the box from approximately 50 meters out. The long ball found Onderdonk-Snow, who deftly fed the ball to a sprinting and completely unmarked Downs, who then slammed the ball into the net to keep the Elis’ hopes alive. The goal was Downs’ second crucial Ivy goal of the season and of his career, the first of which came early in the rivalry matchup against Harvard.
“It was kind of crazy [because] there were just 15 seconds left. There was a scramble and Dylan squared it back across the box to me,” Downs said. “It was just the right place at the right time because I was there at the back post and just tucked it away.”
Downs’ score pushed the match into overtime and the team leader in conference goals continued to be at the center of the Yale attack in the added 10 minutes, accounting for two of Yale’s three shots during the period.
But with a minute and 10 seconds remaining in the overtime period, it was Cornell that earned the game-winner. Zach Bialik, a junior midfielder, played a long ball beyond the Yale back wall and Big Red sophomore defender Allen Capo comfortably headed it in. Although Schipper jumped and tried to get his left hand on it, he was unable to stop the shot and the game from going Cornell’s way.
The loss is Yale’s second overtime defeat of the season. The first came against Sacred Heart in the season opener when, similarly, a Yale own goal drastically affected the outcome of the game. Despite the negative outcomes, the Bulldogs have demonstrated progress between that first game of the year and now, culminating in a season-high 15 shots against Cornell.
Looking forward, Kirby said the team will focus on converting more of those opportunities into goals. He cited the Quinnipiac game, in which Yale’s three goals propelled the team to earn the victory despite defensive errors, as an example to strive toward..
“I think that putting away our chances is going to be one of the most important things going forward, if we want to get results,” Kirby said. “We need to take luck out of the equation by not allowing the opposition to gain the upper hand through lucky bounces or defensive and mental errors on our part.”
Yale’s quest to create its own luck will continue next Saturday against Penn. The match kicks off in Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m.