Courtesy of Don Clark

While a heartbreaking loss to archrival Harvard last weekend stymied its Ivy opener, the Yale men’s soccer team looks to bounce back versus perennial Ivy powerhouse Dartmouth.

The Elis (4–3–1, 0–1–0 Ivy) square off against the Big Green (3–4–3, 0–0–1 Ivy), with both sides hungry for their first conference win. Dartmouth has the home-field advantage for this match, as the two teams will do battle on in New Hampshire. The Crimson put a halt to the impressive three-game winning streak the Bulldogs were riding, but the boys in blue still have an impressive early season record. The Big Green had a rocky beginning to its season, starting off with two losses to top-25 teams and playing out a double overtime thriller of a draw with Princeton to open Ivy play.

What a game it was when these two sides clashed last year. Coming into the fixture at Reese Field, Dartmouth was sitting pretty with a excellent 7–2–0 record overall while the Elis struggled with three wins and five losses. The Big Green had won seven straight, and jumped out to a quick 2–0 lead before halftime. The Bulldogs did not back down from this deficit, however, and stormed back with a headed goal from captain and defender Cameron Riach ’19. As the second half waned, Yale found an equalizer from midfielder Miguel Yuste ’20. The tricky midfielder flicked the ball between two defenders and buried it into the bottom corner to force overtime, which ended in a 2–2 draw.

“This is a vital game for us. It’s an opportunity to make a statement to the entire league because Dartmouth has won the Ivy League the last four years” said Yuste. “Last year’s game only brings good memories to me. Although we ended up only tying the game, it felt like a turning point in our season, and I also scored my first collegiate goal exactly a year after my ACL surgery.”

The tables seem to have turned this season for these two Ivy League foes. While last year Dartmouth owned a better record and came in with positive momentum, Yale has had a far better start to the season in 2018. Much of the Big Green’s early struggles revolve around a lack of goals. Dartmouth has posted just eight goals through the first 10 games of the season. Dawson McCartney, Justin Donawa and Tiger Graham each have two goals to their name, while the rest of the team has accounted for just a pair of scores.

But offense has been no issue for Yale. First-year revelation and forward Paolo Carroll ’22 has taken the Ivy League by force with a stellar four goals in the early part of his debut season. He has also tacked on three assists and been recognized as the Rookie of the Week three times. Yet, unlike the centralized scoring trio of Dartmouth, seven different players have found the back of the net for the Bulldogs this year.

The terror of the Big Green last year, Yuste has played an important role for the Bulldogs again eight games into the 2018 slate. He has anchored the Bulldog midfield with poise. The chemistry between Yuste and Carroll is evident to see as the pair have linked up on multiple goals this season. Yuste has a goal and two assists thus far and will be looking to add to those tallies on Saturday.

Dartmouth’s goalkeeping has been a mixed bag through this young season. The Big Green have utilized two goalies rather evenly throughout the season, with varying levels of success. Junior Henry Stusnick has started all six games in which he has played, conceding only three goals and making 16 saves. Meanwhile sophomore Christopher Palacios has featured in five matches, starting in four, but has seen less success. Palacios has conceded nine goals to this point to go along with 24 saves. Who the Bulldogs will face in net on Saturday is still up in the air, but it seems Stusnick may be the primary option for now.

Goalie Tom Wallenstein ’21, the Elis’s wall in net, has been incredibly effective between the posts for Yale. The keeper has started six of the Bulldogs’ eight games so far with considerable success. While allowing seven goals, Wallenstein has stopped 24 shots. He averages about one goal-against per game, which has proven pivotal for the Bulldogs. The trust in the sophomore netminder also allows the offense to charge forward with confidence.

The Yale defense deserves credit for the team’s hot start as well, especially Riach. The senior is a clear leader on the field and is quick to launch into potential goal-saving tackles. Riach has proven himself to be an aerial threat as well, and a header off of a set piece has already earned him an assist this year. The captain has also been a sterling example of reliability, as he is yet to miss a start through the first eight games of the season.

“He’s a solid captain and center back who leads the team by example” said defender Jack Arnold ’21. “He always finds a way to get it done and helps to pick guys up when they’re down.”

But Dartmouth’s sophomore class is one to watch out for this season. The aforementioned McCartney and Graham are the joint top goalscorers for the team, but they are not the only underclassmen to contribute. Kota Sakurai has started in all 10 of the Big Green’s games and racked up two assists. Palacios has also seen time in net, adding to the list of sophomores getting serious playing time.

This could be another chippy affair for the Bulldogs, following the tense rivalry game at Harvard last weekend. Ivy games are usually intense early on in conference play as teams are focused to getting off on a good start. However, Dartmouth has undergone an especially aggressive start to their season. The Big Green defense accumulated a whopping 20 yellow cards through 10 games, leading all Ancient Eight squads. Whether it is the youth of the Dartmouth defense or just a string of undisciplined performances, the Elis must be prepared for a physical contest.

The Bulldogs have found success using the wings, and that is due in large part to the tandem of midfielders Nicky Downs ’19 and Lucas Kirby ’19. Downs uses his outside midfield position to feed long balls to the speedy Kirby down the line, where he excels at lofting balls into the box. Downs is off to a flying start this season with three goals and three assists, and Kirby has added two assists through his nifty skill and delivery.

“We’re excited and feeling good” said Carroll. “We are looking forward to beating the reigning champions”

The action gets underway at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday from Burnham Field in Hanover.

Eamonn Smith | .