Following a pair of one-goal defeats and an overtime draw in conference play, the Yale men’s soccer team will continue its search for its first Ivy League win when it travels to New York this Saturday to play Columbia.
Yale (1–11–1, 0–3–1 Ivy) has not won an Ivy League match in its last 16 attempts — the last win came over two years ago in an overtime win against Dartmouth. Despite the negative string of results, the Bulldogs have demonstrated steady improvement over the course of the season and hope to translate that into a victory over Columbia (8–4–1, 2–2–0).
“Especially in the last few games, we’ve done a lot better job of keeping the ball to allow for more attacking opportunities,” forward Kyle Kenagy ’19 said.
Kenagy, the team’s leading scorer with three goals in 10 games, has been supported up front in conference play by midfielder Nicky Downs ’19.
Downs, who has scored or assisted on all three of Yale’s Ivy League goals this season after a quiet nonconference portion of the schedule, added that the team has been playing with renewed confidence.
“I think that the next step that we’ve still yet to make is putting together a complete performance where we don’t concede, we get a lot of good chances going forward and we capitalize,” Downs said.
Against the University of Connecticut this past Tuesday, Yale nearly tied the game when Downs hit the crossbar six minutes before regulation ended. While the UConn game ended after 90 minutes, the two previous contests, against Ivy foes Cornell and Penn, went to overtime with Yale unable to notch the elusive game-winning goal.
The Bulldogs will seek to reverse that trend on Saturday, but a difficult road test stands in their way.
Although Columbia was ranked in the NCAA Top 25 for two weeks earlier in the season, peaking at number 21 as recently as Sept. 27, its form has taken a small dip during the month of October.
The Lions currently sit fourth in the Ivy League table, having lost to Brown and Dartmouth, which currently boasts an undefeated conference record and sits atop the Ancient Eight. Still, the Lions’ record this season is already better than their seven-win season a year ago when they finished seventh in the league, with only Yale behind them.
“[Columbia] is a very direct and straightforward team. It’s a lot of big-ball soccer, a lot of stuff in the air,” goalkeeper Ryan Simpson ’17 said. “They move the ball well across the ground, but they like to go high, wide and over top.”
In the past few games, Yale’s defense has improved dramatically. After allowing nearly three goals a game during their first nine contests, the Bulldogs have conceded just 1.25 goals a game over their past four outings.
The defense’s top priority will be marking Columbia forward Arthur Bosua, who leads the Lions in shots, points and goals. His three goals also earn him a tie for fifth-best in the conference.
The Dix Hills, New York native scored against Yale in last year’s contest as a freshman, which ended 2–1 in Columbia’s favor after a disputed foul with less than three minutes to go granted the Lions a go-ahead penalty kick.
While the Yale defense has improved as the season has continued, the offense’s struggles to create chances and to convert those chances into goals have persisted. Against Columbia, the Yale attack will have to beat star senior keeper Kyle Jackson, who has earned All-Ivy recognition each of the past three seasons and has already posted six shutouts this season. His second-best Ivy League goals-against average will force the Bulldogs to up its game on the attacking end of the pitch if they hope to pull off the victory.
“Obviously we haven’t accomplished what we set out to accomplish, which was win an Ivy League championship, but we want to finish the season strong, win our remaining Ivy League games and finish in the top half of the table,” Downs said. “It’s the first year under a new coach and we’re just trying to get our feet under us and figure it out.”
The game, which will be held at Columbia’s Rocco B. Commisso Stadium, kicks off at 7 p.m. on Saturday.