After a tough weekend on the West Coast, the Yale men’s soccer team will look to snap its three-game losing streak as it hits the road for the third week in a row.
Despite emerging from last weekend’s California trip with two more losses, the Bulldogs proved themselves formidable opponents for both the University of California, Berkeley (4–2–0, 0–0–0 Pac-12) and two-time defending national champion No. 5 Stanford (6–1–0, 0–0–0 Pac-12). A brief five days after their return to from California, the Elis will take on another nonconference opponent in St. Joseph’s University (2–3–2, 0–0–0 Atlantic 10).
“On the California trip, we learned that we shouldn’t be intimidated by anyone and that we can compete with anyone in the country,” head coach Kylie Stannard said. “We also learned what the highest level is and that we still have work to do, and we must continue to be better in the small but important details of the game, and also must be more clinical with our chances on goal.”
Against the Bears on Friday, the Bulldogs fell 1–0 after an early second-half goal by Cal captain and defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce. Two days later, the Elis put up a fight against one of the nation’s top teams before the Cardinal settled into an eventual 3–1 win. Yale’s equalizing goal, a header from forward Kyle Kenagy ’19, was just the fourth Stanford allowed in six games.
“Scoring on Stanford took off a lot of pressure and gave us a boost of confidence going forward,” Kenagy said. “It’s always disappointing to lose a game, but we were able to take a lot of positives out of the Stanford game.”
Yale’s final nonconference game before the start of Ivy League action comes against a more familiar opponent in the Hartford-based St. Joseph’s. The Bulldogs topped the Hawks 3–1 at the tail end of the 2016 season, in which St. Joseph’s finished 11th out of 13 teams in the Atlantic 10 conference with a 6–11–1 overall record.
This year, the Hawks welcomed 11 newcomers to complement their six returning starters from the 2016 season. However, the team has thus far been carried offensively by an established talent in senior midfielder Matt Crawford, who has scored five of St. Joseph’s seven goals on the season. Continuing his prolific offense from a season ago, when he was named his team’s Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year, Crawford has taken 28 of the Hawks’ 83 shots this season, proving to be a trigger-happy playmaker at midfield. Shutting down Crawford will be one of the keys to Yale’s game plan Saturday.
“Heading into the St. Joseph’s game, we’ll try to take the positives from our trip to California, including the intensity and high level at which we competed, and build upon it,” said forward John Leisman ’20. “If we can consistently perform with the level of commitment and focus we showed against Cal and Stanford, results will undoubtedly turn our way.”
In preparation for last weekend’s games in California, Yale focused on cleaning up offensive play to limit the amount of opportunities on goal for opposing teams, according to Stannard. Their focus proved fruitful, as they held Cal and back-to-back College Cup champion Stanford to one goal and three goals, respectively.
As for this week, Stannard said the Elis continued to work on possession, but have gained more confidence in their own abilities after putting up admirable fights against two top Pac-12 teams.
“If we can take the energy and focus from the Stanford game and combine that with better team possession, we should be able to get the win this Saturday,” Kenagy said.
The Bulldogs will kickoff play against the Hawks at Sweeney Field at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
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