Despite dominating play for a majority of the 90 minutes, the Yale men’s soccer team fell to bitter archrival Harvard in a 1–0 loss in Cambridge on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (4–3–1, 0–1–0 Ivy) controlled Saturday’s game against the Crimson (3–5–0, 1–0–0 Ivy), but it was the home team that emerged victorious with a second-half goal. The Ivy opener marked the Elis’ first match without a goal this season and the Crimson’s first shutout of the year.
“We possessed and attacked very well overall to create some great chances, and we also had two goals called back that should have been allowed,” head coach Kylie Stannard said. “This is the first time we haven’t scored this season, so I’m confident this won’t affect us going forward. I do think we needed to be more accurate and consistent with our service from set pieces, so that’s something we need to improve.”
At Jordan Field on Saturday, from the very moment the whistle blew it was clear that Yale had a decisive offensive advantage. Despite playing into the glaring late-afternoon sun for the first 45 minutes, the Bulldogs kept possession almost exclusively, rarely letting it out of the Crimson half.
The Yale offense beleaguered Harvard’s backline but failed to net an advantage. The first chance came when forward Paolo Carroll ’22 was fouled in the Crimson half and midfielder Miguel Yuste ’20 took the early free kick. However, the ball from Yuste, as well as the rebound shot from defender Cameron Riach ’19, was turned aside by the Harvard goalkeeper.
Another early scoring chance came from midfielder Aldo Quevedo ’21 who found himself in an onsides, one-on-one breakaway run with the enemy keeper. However, his advance was halted by the Crimson, and the score remained goalless.
It appeared that the Elis had finally broken through off a goal by Carroll six minutes into the first half, but the official ruled an offsides. Defender Justin Lobe ’20 set up Yuste, who dribbled through the Crimson defenders in the center and sent a ball to the left side. Carroll ran diagonally to it, surprising the Harvard defense, and booted a low shot from an improbable angle along the goal line inside the net. However, the official ruled the play offsides, denying Yale an early lead.
The countless chances continued for the Bulldogs. A cross by Yuste got the ball right in front of the net, but the ball went untouched by the Elis, with Quevedo clearly tugged down by a Harvard defender holding him by the arm. No penalty was called despite protests, as referees failed to award the Elis a crucial penalty kick.
Harvard struggled to maintain possession after the Elis forced many turnovers in midfield and repeatedly beat the Crimson to free balls. The few chances Harvard got in the first half proved inconsequential, including a pair of Crimson free kicks early in the game that were handled and cleared by the Eli backline.
A Crimson corner set up for a header by Taner Dogan on goal looked to set up the game’s opening score, but the ensuing shot was saved by stalwart goalkeeper Tom Wallenstein ’21. After Wallenstein snuffed out another open opportunity for a Harvard goal late in the first half, both teams headed to the locker room tied 0–0.
“In the first half we completely out-played and out-shot Harvard,” winger DJ Palmer ’21 said. “Despite our dominant performance, we were unable to get a goal going into the second half. There were some questionable calls, but at the end of the day we needed to find a way to score.”
The chippiness from the first half was only amplified in the beginning of the second, as Harvard tested Wallenstein twice by looping balls into the box. Although the Yale keeper quickly dealt with these threats, the momentum seemed to be trending in Harvard’s direction.
But in the 49th minute after a silky scoop turn, Yuste sent a crackling shot just right of the top corner, inches from an opening goal that would have made it 1–0 Yale.
The blistering combined speed of Carroll and forwards Kyle Kenagy ’19 and Logan Sullivan ’22 up top posed problems for the Harvard backline in the second half, causing errant backpasses and clearances left and right.
No team was in complete control during the second half, but the 59th minute saw the first breakthrough on the scoreboard. Riach headed a dangerous bouncing clearance outside the Yale penalty box back towards Wallenstein, but before the goalkeeper could retrieve it, Harvard’s first-year forward Alfred Perez leaped on the ball and chipped it deftly into the back of the net, putting the Crimson on top by one.
Given the storied rivalry of Harvard versus Yale, bitter verbal exchange midway through the second half between Cesar Farias Jr. and the usually level-headed Enzo Okpoye ’22 came as no surprise, resulting in some shoving as the tension continued to build.
Midfield stalwart Mark Winhoffer ’21 returned from illness to make a late appearance in the game, showing little signs of rust. In the 66th minute, he combined pace and skill on the outside of the box to dance around two Crimson defenders and draw a crucial free kick. Winhoffer sent in a low ball on the ensuing free kick, nearly finding the feet of Okpoye, but it was ultimately cleared away by Harvard.
As the clock ticked down, Yale looked for a moment of magic and, in the 88th minute, they nearly found one. Yuste, refusing to give up even in the waning moments, played a quick one-two with Okpoye. The junior midfielder controlled the bouncing return pass and sent an absolute screamer towards the Harvard net. As the ball headed straight for the top left corner, the Harvard keeper sent it over with a fingertip save, delivering heartbreak to the Elis.
“I thought we showed our quality by dominating all facets of the game,” Winhoffer said. “It’s tough when calls weren’t going our way and the bounce of the ball as well. But there is no excuses. We had more than enough chances to bury them. We are the best soccer team in the Ivy League, and we will for sure show it in the upcoming conference games.”
The Bulldogs look to rebound when they take on Dartmouth this Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
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