The Yale men’s soccer team extended its astonishing undefeated start to the season with important victories over UMass and Cornell. The Bulldogs are unbeaten through 11 games for the first time since the 1935–36 team enjoyed a perfect 12–0 season.
Despite facing two strong opponents, the Blue and White demonstrated its defensive solidity by conceding only one goal across both fixtures. After dispatching Dartmouth just three days earlier, the No. 24 Elis (9–0–2, 3–0–0 Ivy) showed no signs of slowing down against UMass (5–9–0, 1–4–0 Atlantic). Meanwhile, the Minutemen had lost seven games in a row leading up to Tuesday’s game, and so it appeared that the game would be a formality for the Bulldogs. But it turned out to be anything but a walkover for Yale, with captain Miguel Yuste ’20 scoring the winner in overtime to narrowly clinch a 1–0 victory.
“The team is feeling good after three Ivy League wins and a tough win against UMass in the last weeks, but we are super focused and excited to play at one of the best stages in college soccer,” Yuste said. “Our strengths rely on the groups cohesiveness, defending and dynamism and that’s what we’ll keep doing every time we step on the field.”
Despite UMass winning four out of its first five games in 2019, the Minutemen had not won a single conference game after playing Dayton, Saint Louis, Davidson and Fordham. The game against the Bulldogs marked their final nonconference matchup of the season. The UMass-Yale fixture was last played in 1995 when Yale was defeated 1–0 at UMass.
This year’s contest was relatively even after 90 minutes, with Yale having 11 shots to the Minutemen’s eight. While the Bulldogs played their usual flowing soccer, they were met by a hardy opponent who managed to absorb the majority of Yale’s attacks. At the same time, UMass came close on occasion with Graham Brenner narrowly placing a header wide of the near post in the opening 10 minutes. In addition, with the momentum of the game on a knife-edge, both teams had a goal disallowed for offside, demonstrating how the game could have easily gone either way.
Going into overtime, however, it was Yale that took the initiative and put UMass under intense pressure. Eventually it was Yuste who led from the front — as he has done time and again this season — to score into the top corner from 20 yards out and win the game for the Elis. It meant that goalkeeper Elian Haddock ’22, who made two saves on the day, managed to post his fourth shutout of the season.
“We look at one game at a time,” defender Lazaros Efthymiou ’22 said. “We never talk for future goals. We approach every game in the same manner, always respecting the opponent but going into every game to win. We don’t care how the opponents view the game, we believe in ourselves and focus on the things we want to do. We are a family and this is what makes us different.”
The Elis went into the Cornell matchup with a strong record in the fixture, enjoying 3–0, 1–0 and 2–1 wins in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively. When Kyle Kenagy ’19 scored the winning goal in last year’s game, Cornell was ranked No. 18 in the nation.
The Big Red came to Reese Stadium off a two-game winning streak that included a 6–0 victory over Harvard, whom the Bulldogs defeated 3–1. Cornell was, prior to the game, seventh in the nation in shots per game and 10th in shots on goal. The Big Red demonstrated the strength of its team this season with 11 different players scoring at least once ahead of Friday’s game.
The Bulldogs, however, with their own impressive record this season, seized early control of the game. Yale was already on the board by the second minute after defender Sigfus Árnason ’23 sent a perfect cross to defender Jeremy Haddock ’22 who sent it in with a header. Completing another set piece, midfielder Mark Winhoffer ’21 netted his fourth goal of the season and Yale’s second tally of the game in the 24th minute off a free-kick shot over the wall.
Despite a strong start by the Elis, the Big Red came back before the end of the half and narrowed the margin with a goal from Vardhin Manoj. The Bulldogs returned to stable ground after halftime when Yuste scored in the 70th minute in a deflection off another free-kick from Winhoffer — his seventh of the season.
After the Cornell victory, the Bulldogs remain perfect both in conference and on the season as a whole.
“The squad is definitely feeling good with our recent form but at the same time knows that there is still a third of the season left to go and so much more work to be done in order for this season to actually be a success,” Arnason said. “We are now excited to be able to play and test ourselves against last year’s NCAA champions tomorrow night.”
Yale’s next game will be against the University of Maryland on Monday evening, with the game kicking off at 7 p.m.
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