As Yale men’s soccer enters their final two contests of the season, the Bulldogs must win at least one in order to finish the 2015 season with an improved record compared to 2014 — a potential consolation in what has been an overall disappointing campaign.
On Saturday night, Yale (1–13–1, 0–4–1 Ivy) hosts Brown (9–5–1, 3-–1–1) at Reese Stadium. Playing on its home turf for the first time since a 2–1 overtime loss to Cornell on Oct. 17, Yale is hoping to end its three-game losing streak and earn its first victory since a Sept. 19 triumph over Quinnipiac.
“We plan to leave absolutely everything we have on the field on Saturday and again the following week against Princeton,” midfielder Lucas Kirby ’19 said. “Finishing the season with two massive wins would add tangible results to the development of the program that has taken place this season.”
While Yale sits at the bottom of the Ivy League table, Brown is in second place — five points away from first-place Dartmouth with two games remaining.
Whereas the Bears find themselves still holding onto a sliver of hope for an Ivy League championship, little has gone right for the Bulldogs this season. Yale entered the year with notable excitement surrounding the hiring of new head coach Kylie Stannard, who spent six seasons on the coaching staff at Michigan State. However, Stannard’s squad struggled early on and has not been able to close some tight games over the past month — Yale’s last five losses have been by a one-goal margin.
Despite the team’s lackluster record, Stannard has seen some positives from this group and hopes his team can appreciate those same takeaways.
“I think we have to keep doing the things we are doing because this group is doing really well in really all areas outside of finishing our chances,” Stannard said. “Some defensive situations can improve, but I think the main thing is making sure these guys know that they can do it.”
The Elis are coming off a tough 1–0 loss to Central Connecticut State on the road on Tuesday night. This mid-week, non-conference game was indicative of the team’s progress in creating more opportunities to score, but also of the inability to finish that Stannard highlighted. The Bulldogs outshot the Blue Devils 14–9, but ultimately it was CCSU that found the back of the net and earned the victory.
While Yale will need to translate those opportunities into goals on the scoreboard against Brown, defense will be a major component for their success. The Bears’ offense is tied for the second-most potent in the league, with 20 goals scored. Heading that scoring attack is freshman defender Jack Hagstrom, tied for second in the league in goals, who has scored five times on the season. Yale will also need to effectively mark midfielder Tariq Akeel and forward Matthew Chow, who each have netted three goals this year.
In a game with few practical implications for the Elis, Saturday’s contest is the final home game for the team’s six seniors — a factor of which the Bulldogs are well aware.
“The biggest thing [about the game] is that this Saturday is Senior Day,” goalkeeper Ryan Simpson ’17 said. “So you can expect a top effort from the entire team, to try and leave the seniors on a good note.”
Despite the disparity in records, Kirby believes the team’s underdog role might play to the team’s advantage. Added motivation stems from the Elis’ six-game winless streak against the Bears, including a 1–0 loss last year after conceding a late second-half goal.
According to Stannard, the key to success moving forward will be poise and execution, as Yale attempts to salvage some positive momentum with the offseason not far away.
“Right now it’s just about trying to get these guys to be confident to be able to make the plays when they need to,” Stannard said.
Kickoff at Senior Day is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday.