Coming off the back of a five-game winning streak — the first in 16 years — the Yale men’s soccer team will take on its archrival Harvard this Friday under the lights at Reese Stadium.
Despite suffering a bitter 1–0 loss in the same fixture last season, the Bulldogs approach the game with unbridled optimism. The Crimson (0–4–1, 0–0–0 Ivy) has fallen well below the mark so far in their 2019 campaign. They have yet to win a single game while suffering devastating losses against the likes of No. 20 North Carolina and No. 18 Duke. In comparison, having secured a victory on Monday over Central Connecticut State, the Elis (5–0–2, 0–0–0 Ivy) still remain unbeaten this season. This marks the first time Yale has remained unbeaten through seven games since 1952. The team also reached No. 28 in College Soccer News’ “Top 30 National Poll” for the second straight week. In addition, the Bulldogs have only conceded four goals this season, the lowest yield in the Ivy League.
“We have a special group of players this year, and we all work hard for the collective success of the team,” said midfielder Enzo Okpoye ’22. “Our belief in what we can achieve is very high, but we understand that there is still work to be done. The team celebrated right after the Central Connecticut game, and now the focus is on the [Ivy League opener].”
Last season’s Harvard-Yale game saw the Bulldogs suffer an agonizing loss, despite dominating the Crimson throughout the match. Opportunities came with midfielder Miguel Yuste ’20 coming close with a free kick, followed by forward Aldo Quevedo ’21 missing a breakaway chance against the opposing keeper. However, in the 59th minute forward Alfred Perez intercepted a header, intended to go back to the Yale goalkeeper, and chipped it in to score the winner.
The Bulldogs are looking for a different result this year, with multiple players in top form this season. Quevedo recently scored a brace against Central Connecticut. For his part, Yuste has scored five goals this campaign, and creative midfielder Mark Winhoffer ’21 has assisted on seven.
“It has been a good start, but we have not achieved anything yet,” Yuste said. “We know that the stands at Reese will be packed with supporters, family and alumni feeding us energy. We can’t wait to get the ball rolling and leave everything on the field.”
This year, the Crimson started off their season with a 6–0 loss against the Tar Heels before falling to Duke 3–0. The team also failed to produce results in front of a Cambridge home crowd last Tuesday, settling for a 3–3 draw after forfeiting a two-goal lead against Merrimack. They have conceded a total of 17 goals in just five games, while only scoring five themselves.
Harvard will be seeking its first victory on the 2019 slate. Historically, Yale has won this matchup only twice in 10 years and has not beaten the Crimson since 2013.
“We are going to approach this game as if it were any other we have played so far,” said striker Paolo Carroll ’22. “Conference games are always tougher, but if we stay together as a team and stay determined, we will get the win on Friday.”
The Bulldogs host the Crimson at Reese Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m. The first 100 fans will receive a “Beat Harvard” T-shirt courtesy of Yale Athletics.
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