Entering its fourth game of the season this Saturday, the Yale men’s soccer team checks in with a balanced 1–1–1 overall record. A victory would not only tip the scales in the Bulldogs’ favor, but match their combined win total from the past two seasons.
Coming off a tough 2–0 loss against local rival Quinnipiac (3–3–0, 0–0–0 Metro Atlantic) on Wednesday night, the Elis (1–1–1, 0–0–0 Ivy) look to rebound and continue their promising start to the season when they host Lafayette (1–4–0, 0–0–0 Patriot) under the lights at Reese Stadium.
“The energy at the start of the game [against Quinnipiac] wasn’t good enough,” midfielder An Le ’19 said. “It was a tough loss, but as a group, we’ll have to quickly move past it and refocus on winning the game on Saturday… Especially being at home against Lafayette, we want to set the tone of the game immediately and make them as uncomfortable as possible.”
The Leopards arrive to New Haven as an unfamiliar opponent to Yale. The two sides last met in 2000, when the Bulldogs rode an early goal to a 1–0 victory. Despite the lack of recent rivalry, both teams have played a similar schedule so far this season, including suffering identical 2–0 defeats to a young and talented Quinnipiac team.
Lafayette’s emphasis on the defensive end will challenge a Yale attack that has looked promising thus far. Through three games, the Bulldogs have scored two goals on two separate occasions, a feat the team accomplished just twice the past two seasons.
The volume of the Bulldogs’ 2016 offensive output is enhanced by its diversity. All four of the team’s goals have come from different players, although last year’s top scorer, striker Kyle Kenagy ’19, has yet to open his account this season. The Lafayette defense, meanwhile, returns three of its four starters from last year’s backline that kept seven clean sheets. Alongside keeper Brad Seeber, who saved a penalty in the team’s win over Fordham last weekend, the Leopards will provide a veteran test for a young Bulldog frontline.
“[We need] to catch [Lafayette] in transition, win the ball in the midfield and catch them out of position for a quick chance,” midfielder James Kochanski ’19 said.
Additionally, Le emphasized offensive creativity and control in the midfield as keys to success.
On defense, Yale has been reinvigorated by the return of captain and center back Henry Flugstad-Clarke ’17 and the introduction of freshmen Justin Lobe ’20 and Will Emerson ’20. The Bulldog backline has started to erase some of the shakier memories of seasons past, keeping the team’s first clean sheet since 2014 in last weekend’s 2–0 win against Sacred Heart.
The Elis should face little threat from a toothless Leopards attack that has found the net in only one of five games this season.
“We’ll look to tighten up the lines between our defense, midfield and offense, so we can defend as a cohesive unit to get the clean sheet,” goalkeeper Allec Willis ’19 said.
The main weapon on Lafayette’s roster is freshman forward Evan Vare, who scored the first two goals of his college career in the victory over Fordham. The pacy forward has sparked life into a moribund Lafayette attack which netted just 10 goals in 18 games last season. Yale will be sure to mark Vare carefully on Saturday, after conceding a pair of goals to Quinnipiac freshman forward Eamon Whelan on Wednesday night.
“This [Yale] team has done a good job of learning from mistakes and I’m confident we will improve on some areas where we struggled last game,” Yale head coach Kylie Stannard said. “[Lafayette] will be very similar to two or three teams that we play in the Ivy League, so it’s a good opportunity for us to prepare for conference play.”
Yale kicks off action against the Leopards at 7 p.m. on Saturday.