Coming off a three-game winning streak, the Yale men’s soccer team will open Ivy play against archnemesis Harvard this weekend.
The Bulldogs (4–2–1, 0–0–0 Ivy) will march into enemy territory to face off with the Crimson (2–5–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) for a Saturday evening match at Jordan Field. The Elis have been on a roll, coming into the match with their longest winning streak in over a decade. Meanwhile, the Crimson has been struggling, posting five losses. As this is the first conference match for both teams, an early win could set Yale on the path to championship contention.
“The Harvard-Yale rivalry, with all its history and glory, has to be one of the most intense games I have played in my career,” Aldo Quevedo ’21 said. “The crowd is electric, and you get a certain feeling in the buildup knowing you’re becoming part of some pretty cool history — especially if you come out on top.”
As the rivalry ignites Saturday, the teams will remember years of hard-fought matches against their old-time rivals. Last year’s match ended in bitter defeat for the Elis. A first-half goal by Quevedo put the Elis in the lead for most of the match. However, the Crimson proved victorious as a scoring spree in the final 10 minutes deflated an exhausted Eli team and forced a devastating loss at home.
Historically, Yale’s overall record in the series is 38–54–12, and the Elis have not beaten Harvard since 2012. But this year brings tides of change. The Bulldogs haven’t lost a match since early September against then-No. 20 Georgetown. Since then, a 2–2 tie with then-No. 4 Michigan State proved the Elis could go toe-to-toe with the best in the nation, and three victories since indicate no signs that the team is slowing down.
In comparison, the Crimson has already tallied five losses in seven games, three of which were against top 25 teams. A recent 2–1 win against Boston University gives the Crimson some momentum, but offensive chances have been rare for the Cambridge natives. Harvard has averaged just five to six shots per game, half of the Elis’ 12 shot average. Additionally, Harvard’s top goalscorers this season are falling behind Yale’s. Taner Dogan and Cesar Farias Jr. each have two goals for the Crimson compared to the four and three goals of Yale’s Paolo Carroll ’22 and Nicky Downs ’19 respectively.
The Harvard defense has also been struggling. They have given up at least two goals in each game, including a blowout loss against No. 23 Air Force 6–1. The Crimson goalkeeper David Paquette posted an impressive nine saves against No. 5 Denver in mid-September, but his effort was still not enough, and Harvard walked away with a 3–1 loss.
“We are definitely confident and ready to play against Harvard,” goalkeeper Tom Wallenstein ’21 said. “However, we know it’s going to be a big challenge. Derbys like those are always special competitive games. We are all happy to finally start with Ivy League play … We hope we can bring our best game to start Ivies with a win and keep the momentum going.”
Additionally, the Yale defense has stifled opponents all fall. Wallenstein has been an absolute revelation in net, with 21 saves already under his belt this early in the season. In the five games he started this year, Wallenstein has averaged 3.50 saves per game. But unlike the consistency of Wallenstein, the Harvard team has seen three keepers feature in at least two games each this season.
The stellar defense of the Eli’s hasn’t been just the brilliance of Wallenstein in the back. Justin Lobe ’20 has been stalwart in the Yale backline this entire season and has started in each of the seven games so far. His speed and physicality at left back make opponents think twice before playing it down the wing. Will Emerson ’20 has been solid defensively but has exhibited offensive ability as well. In addition to an assist, he tallied his first career goal versus Michigan State this year.
The final factor in favor of the Elis is the exceptional youth they have on their current squad. The class of 2022 has come out in force for the Bulldogs in the early season. Though it is hard to convey what a dominant season Carroll has been having, other first years have been effective as well. Enzo Okpoye ’22 has been a force to be reckoned with in midfield, adapting quickly to the pace of the college game. Forward Logan Sullivan ’22 has also been a spark plug off the bench, where he has given much-needed relief to likes of Downs and Quevedo.
Although influential, Harvard’s first-year players have not had the same impact. Alex Debayo-Doherty and Alfred Perez each have one goal, but they are the only scorers thus far in their class. Midfielder Nico Garcia-Morillo is the only Crimson first year with an assist at this point in the season.
“We definitely feel good about how we’re playing,” Yale coach Kylie Stannard said. “We have been tested in a lot of ways in our games, so I think our guys are battle-tested and ready for the new challenge of conference play.”
This is the 104th meeting between the two bitter rivals.
Cate Sawkins | email@example.com