For the second match in a row, the Yale men’s soccer team found itself engaged in an overtime contest in pursuit of its first conference victory.
Away at Penn (2–8–2, 1–2–1 Ivy), the Bulldogs (1–10–1, 0–3–1) could not muster a winning strike during extra time despite some promising chances and ended up with a 1–1 draw.
“That lockdown mentality [during overtime] while still creating a plethora of attacking opportunities shows that we are improving each game,” goalkeeper Ryan Simpson ’17 said.
The 1–1 scoreline at the end of regulation forced overtime, but neither team won the game, even in 20 minutes of added time.
The draw is Yale’s best result since its home win against Quinnipiac more than a month ago, and snaps a six-game losing streak. The Bulldogs, however, still sit at the bottom of the Ivy League table with one point and are the only Ivy League team that has not yet won a conference match.
“Though we didn’t win the game, we also held on late in the game to prevent losing the game,” Simpson said.
As has been the theme this season, the Bulldogs struggled to find their offensive footing during the first 45 minutes of the match, instead relying on a more defensive approach. Although Penn was more prolific on the attack, the Bulldog defense ensured that none of the Quakers’ chances presented any real danger, as just one of their six shots was on target.
Forward Kyle Kenagy ’19 attributed Yale’s lackluster first-half attacking performance to the team’s subpar ability to maintain possession, which allowed too many Eli passes to be intercepted by the Quakers. Despite the disjointed play, the game remained scoreless at halftime.
Although they were outshot 7–3 in the second half, the Bulldogs got on the scoreboard first when defender Cameron Riach ’19 scored his first career goal. Off a free kick, Nicky Downs ’19 sent the ball 40 yards into Quaker territory. Positioned just inside the box, Riach eluded a host of Quaker defenders to head the ball in, beating Etan Mabourakh, Penn’s freshman keeper. Mabourakh was the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Week, but his reflexes were not quick enough for a save.
The Bulldogs were unable to maintain their lead for long though, as within five minutes, the Quakers notched an equalizer. Off a free kick similar to the one the Bulldogs had scored on, the ball sailed into the Yale box. A scramble ensued and although the Quakers’ header shot high in the air before bouncing around the box, forward Jerel Blades capitalized on the confusion and coolly slotted the rebounded ball into the net.
“Their goal was against the run of play, which seems to be a common occurrence for us,” midfielder Lucas Kirby ’19 said, referencing Cornell’s overtime game-winner last week.
In the remaining 30 minutes, both teams looked to score the winner, but the Quakers had the better chances and kept goalkeeper Ryan Simpson ’17 busy.
The match was Simpson’s first outing since tearing a muscle in his right quad, which forced him to miss seven matches. He performed well, though, making five fine saves to push the game into overtime.
“Since being out, my biggest concerns were the speed of my decision making, goal-kicks and confidence in my performance,” Simpson said. “Two of those three things, my decision making and confidence, felt where they needed to be to perform. While some of the goal kicks went well, there definitely needs to be a bit more consistency that will be worked on in practice.”
In overtime, Simpson continued his noteworthy performance. With less than two minutes to go, he made a leaping save with his left arm completely outstretched to prevent an otherwise superb Penn strike from finding the back of the net.
Yale’s best chance came with less than 30 seconds left on the clock, but the team was unable to recreate the last-second heroics from last weekend’s Cornell contest in which Kenagy forced overtime with a thrilling goal. Kenagy had plenty of space, but his right-footed shot went two meters wide of the net.
“We really turned on the pressure during overtime and were pushing for a winning goal throughout the 20 minutes of overtime,” Kirby said. “We got extremely close to putting the winner away, so we were a bit upset with the result.”
Kenagy added that the draw was a step in the right direction, but expressed his disappointment that the Bulldogs had “plenty of chances to put that game away.”
Nevertheless, the freshman, who is the team’s leading goal-scorer, is confident the results will improve as the season nears its close.
“I think another win is right around the corner for us,” Kenagy said.
His prediction will be put to the test this Tuesday when the Bulldogs travel an hour north to take on an in-state foe, the University of Connecticut. That match kicks off at 7 p.m.