With last week’s disappointing 1–0 loss to Vermont fading from memory, the Yale men’s soccer team will head to the West Coast this weekend for its toughest set of road games this season.
After winning consecutive games for the first time since 2012 with 3–0 and 1–0 home wins over Howard and Hartford, respectively, the Bulldogs (2–2–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) took a frustrating step backwards against the Catamounts (3–2–0, 0–0–0 America East) in their first away game of the season. The Elis will not return to the friendly confines of Reese Stadium for another two weeks, instead traveling cross country to take on University of California, Berkeley (2–2–0, 0–0–0 Pac-12) and defending national champion No. 5 Stanford (4–1–0, 0–0–0).
Though a win against either team on the two-game road trip will be difficult to come by, even a weekend split would provide a boost for the young Bulldog team in its return to the East Coast.
“Both [Cal and Stanford] will be great opponents, and we are capable of competing against top teams,” midfielder Miguel Yuste ’20 said. “We will need to play confident in the attack and focused defensively from the first whistle to improve our last performance.”
Yale’s most recent performance against Vermont was marked by offensive stagnation and low first-half energy: The Bulldogs mustered just two shots in the opening 45 minutes and conceded a goal at 41:54 which proved the difference despite more scoring opportunities for the Elis in the second half. The shutout loss capped a stretch of four games in just nine days for Yale, after which a weeklong hiatus from competition allowed the team to rest and prepare for the upcoming trip, according to head coach Kylie Stannard.
“It was sad to be on the losing end, but we will learn from our mistakes and we are looking forward to improving our record in California,” midfielder Mark Winhoffer ’21 said.
Though their middling 0.500 record may seem simply pedestrian on the surface, the Golden Bears have already packed a season’s worth of storylines into just four games. Like the Bulldogs, Cal began its season with a loss in which they considerably outshot their opponents. The team fell in a 1–0 heartbreaker to West Virginia despite owning a 14–3 shot advantage just one week before Yale outshot Fairleigh Dickinson 21–8 in an eventual 2–0 loss.
While Yale battled Howard through heavy rain in New Haven, the Golden Bears outlasted treacherous storms in a 2–1 win over Portland, marking the first time in 15 years in which either team has scored against each other.
Despite the roller coaster opening to 2017, Cal’s offense has been characterized by balance. Seven different players have recorded at least three shots in the team’s four games, and the Golden Bears’ three goals on the season were all recorded by different contributors.
Cal’s premiere playmaker in the heart of its attack is red-shirt senior forward Jose Carrera-Garcia. The Ontario, California, native has assisted on all three of his team’s scores while leading the team with 10 shots of his own. Bulldog ball control and defensive vigilance will be key against the Golden Bears to prevent Carrera-Garcia from expanding his playmaking ability.
“For me, the foundation of any good team is being defensively sound,” Stannard said. “Everyone is a defender when we don’t have the ball. We do need to do a better job in ball control and possession in the next couple of games, as well as being a little more dangerous and clinical around the goal to take a little pressure off our defending.”
Even with so much attention paid to defense in the last week of practices, Yale will be hard pressed to stop the high-powered Stanford offense on Sunday. The Cardinal has scored early and often throughout its 4–1–0 start to its season, taking leads against San Jose State, No. 23 Creighton and Northeastern in the 12th, ninth and 11th minutes of play, respectively.
Senior forwrad Foster Lagnsdorf has led the offensive onslaught with six goals in his team’s five games while accumulating a platoon of individual accolades. The Vancouver, Washington, native and 2016 Pac-12 Co-Player of the Year was named to the All-American First Team before the 2017 season began and has already grabbed National Player of the Week and Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the Cardinal defense has been even more masterful than its offense, as the team prepares for a third consecutive NCAA championship run. With the exception of the two penalty goals surrendered to Tulsa in the team’s last game, Stanford has allowed just one score all season, a second-minute concession to Southern Methodist University which snapped an 819-minute shutout streak dating back to Nov. 11, 2016. Red-shirt senior goalkeeper Nico Corti ranks 24th in all of Division I with a 0.60 goals-against average on the season, while Stanford as a team has outshot its opponents 87–42.
“We know these will be the biggest tests we have faced all year,” Stannard said. “But I’m confident our team will be prepared and give everything they have to represent Yale and the Ivy League in a really positive way. This is one of the top three trips in all of college soccer, so we [are] embracing it as a great opportunity to challenge ourselves at the highest level.”
Yale will begin play against Cal at 7:30 p.m. on Friday before rounding out the road trip against Stanford at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Cate Sawkins | firstname.lastname@example.org
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