The Yale men’s soccer team grabbed a late equalizer to earn a 2–2 draw with No. 4 Michigan State this weekend.
The Bulldogs (1–2–1, 0–0–0 Ivy) took on the Spartans (5–0–2, 0–0–0 Big Ten) in their first home game back at Reese Stadium this Friday. Defying the pregame predictions that the Spartans would cruise, Yale came out of the gate fired up and matched its nationally ranked opponent blow for blow. An early goal from Will Emerson ’20 put the Bulldogs in the lead at halftime. An explosive second half saw two Michigan State goals and a rebuttal from the Elis to tie the game and send it into overtime, where the draw still represented an exhilarating result for Yale.
“We are definitely proud that we could compete with one of the best teams in the nation toe to toe, and it gives us a huge confidence booster for the upcoming games,” goalkeeper Tom Wallenstein ’21 said. “Nevertheless, we know that we haven’t achieved anything yet, and I think that our ultimate goals moving forward should be to eliminate the few mistakes we made and to pay attention to the details.”
The Elis returned to their home stadium for the first time since it was renovated, and the turf was not the only thing new on the field. With grit, talent and energy from the capacity crowd, the Bulldogs were unrecognizable from their previous matches.
Coming into the game, Michigan State was heavily favored to win, but the mood changed as it became clear the Bulldogs were determined to defend their home field. Yale controlled the play early, and its possession proved fruitful with a goal from Emerson off a rebound. 2017 Big Ten Goalie of the Year, Jimmy Hague, could not control a shot from midfielder Miguel Yuste ’20, and Emerson capitalized.
Intense play followed in which the Spartans seemed stymied as they tried to create in the offensive third. It was only in the second half that Michigan State lived up to its ranking, as the Spartans scored twice in 15 minutes to put them ahead.
Both of the Michigan State goals came off set pieces. With just over 20 minutes to play, midfielder Giuseppe Baroni curled a precise free kick past the Yale wall and into the back of the net via the post, leaving Bulldog goalkeeper Wallenstein rooted to the spot. Baroni turned provider for the second Spartan goal, whipping a ball to the back post for Patrick Nielsen to turn home with only six minutes to play.
However, with just over two minutes to play, the Elis struck an equalizer in dramatic fashion. Forward Paolo Carroll ’22, who assisted on both of Yale’s goals, directed a long ball to midfielder Nicky Downs ’19, who finished the play with a shot nested into the upper corner of the goal.
Fatigue set in on both sides in the two overtime periods before Yale was presented with a golden opportunity to take the lead: Michigan State was whistled for a handball in the box. However, Yuste saw his penalty kick denied by a sprawling Hague to preserve the score at two.
Despite facing a talented opponent, the Bulldogs outshot the Spartans in overtime and held their ground, a huge improvement from recent second-period slumps. After 110 minutes, the game ended in a draw, but it was clear who had won the moral victory.
“The team was excited about the result as it helps prove that we can compete with top-5 ranked teams,” forward John Leisman ’20 said. “The goal moving forward is to maintain that level throughout the season, especially as we move into Ivy play.”
Wallenstein posted five saves to hold the Spartans to only two goals. The Spartans outshot the Elis 16–10 and surpassed them in corner kicks 11–2, but the Bulldog defense did not budge. Both of Michigan State’s goals came from free kicks, proving Yale’s ability to shut them down during the flow of open play.
Tensions ran high as Spartan frustration built and spilled over into rough play. On numerous occasions players were apprehended for deliberate pushing or provocation of their opponents after play had been whistled dead. The foul total tells the story: Michigan State fouled the Elis 18 times to Yale’s 27, with the Spartans receiving three yellow cards and Yale four.
“The team did a good job of being aggressive without getting carried away,” captain and defender Cameron Riach ’19 said. “Constantly talking with each other throughout the game certainly helped. We knew we couldn’t let the rising tensions get the better of us.”
The result is huge for the men’s soccer program. In just his fourth year at the helm, head coach Kylie Stannard has proven that his program can hang with the best in the nation. After losing to much lower ranked opponents in previous weeks, the challenge seemed to be exactly what the Elis needed, as they rose to the occasion and exceeded expectations.
“I thought our guys did a good job overall of maintaining their composure and discipline over the course of a game that was very fast paced and contentious with a lot of fouls on both sides. The energy from the crowd was awesome and it made for the emotions of both teams to be a little on edge, but our guys dealt with it really well overall,” Stannard wrote in an email to the News.
The Elis take on Bryant University in Rhode Island this Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
Cate Sawkins | firstname.lastname@example.org