Yale Athletics

Miguel Yuste ’20 played 28 minutes in his first season as a Bulldog due to a torn ACL. Last fall, he started every game as the captain of the Yale men’s soccer team, leading them to the Ivy League crown. Now, as he awaits his return to Division I soccer at the University of Portland, he is training with a third division Spanish team, Atlético Tordesillas. 

Yuste began his soccer career at the age of four with dreams of playing professionally one day. He would visit the stadium of his boyhood club — Real Valladolid — every week with his father. At the age of twelve, he joined their academy and played on the U19 team until he began his collegiate career with the Bulldogs. On Oct. 15, Atlético Tordesillas announced that they had signed Yuste, where he is currently staying in shape before he eventually returns to the U.S. to play for the University of Portland. There, he will pursue a master’s degree in biomedical engineering.

Yuste made a name for himself at Yale, leading the Bulldogs to their best season in the program’s history. Yale men’s soccer head coach Kylie Stannard spoke of Yuste’s undeniable commitment to the team, and how his way of thinking proved invaluable for the squad.

“He learned from difficult times in his previous years and understood what worked and what didn’t,” Stannard said. “He brought a whole new level to our program for his passion for the game and for training that became the new standard. He helped elevate our culture even further as a soccer culture, but even more importantly, as a winning soccer culture.”

When he arrived in New Haven, Yuste did not see as much of the field as he had during his high school career. He suffered a torn ACL 20 minutes into the first game of the season, sidelining him for almost a whole year.

In addition, Yuste is smaller than many of his opponents. The striker struggled with the physical side of the game and was often pushed off the ball. 

“I kind of consider myself more of like a crafty creative player,” Yuste said. “My first two years especially, it was tough, it was a very physical game.”

As Stannard noted, the strength and conditioning program was beneficial for Yuste’s development as a player. While his technical ability and eye for goal were always top-notch, Yuste only learned to harness his low center of gravity in the second half of his Yale career. Rather than pushing his way past defenders, he weaved around them, far too agile for his opponents.

However, Yuste’s greatest asset as a captain was his mindset. His coaches and teammates alike benefited from his determination, and he helped usher in a new era at Yale.

“Most importantly, he grew in his burning desire to leave a legacy and to understand the importance of having every single person on the team with an “all in” mentality and to embody the idea that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts,” Stannard said. 

Yuste led from the front. As a striker, he was clinical in front of goal. Influenced by his idol, legendary Real Madrid striker Raúl González Blanco, Yuste loved joining the attack. Fifty percent of his shots on target last season resulted in goals. He was the leading scorer for the Bulldogs, punishing the opposition on numerous occasions. 

The current captain, attacking midfielder Mark Winhoffer ’21, learned a lot from Yuste. The Spaniard was not only a role model for his teammates, but also a friend. Yuste received high praise from them — they respect him both on and off the field, Winhoffer said. 

“Miguel was the first player I met at Yale,” Winhoffer said. “He took me around campus on my visit and we connected right away. He is a super talented player and he gets along with everyone. We would go to the fields on our own and try to make each other [better] every day on the pitch. He is one person that truly personifies YMS, a talented player and person and a man with integrity.”

In Yuste’s final season as a Bulldog, he witnessed the culmination of years of hard work as the Blue and White took the Ivy League crown. With this championship, the squad had fulfilled its potential, and their captain, as he said himself, “finish[ed] on a high note.”

Yuste has fond memories of his years at Yale. He joined the program during a transition period. The Bulldogs posted a 1–14–2 record in 2015, the year before he arrived. As a result, winning the Ivy League with an overall record of 13–3–2 was particularly notable for him.

“I think it was a super rewarding experience and I’m super grateful about my four years [at Yale]…It was a great group effort, to be honest,” Juste said. “And I think the legacy and the image we left on campus is, to me, much more important than individual goals or trophies, or other recognitions. To me as the captain, that is something I’m always going to be super proud of.”

Yuste still hopes to play professionally one day. The University of Portland has a rich history of sending players to the MLS in the past — Yuste hopes to be one of the next.

However, Yuste currently plans to continue his studies back in the U.S. before potentially moving on to play with the pros. Unfortunately, he is unsure when he will be able to return to collegiate soccer due to COVID-19 concerns. Regardless of when that may be, Stannard is confident in Yuste’s ability to impress at Portland.

“In addition to his incredible soccer talent, he will bring maturity, leadership, and a personality that can bring a team together. Portland is very lucky to have him.”

The University of Portland’s sports teams are nicknamed the Pilots.

Rehan Melwani | rehan.melwani@yale.edu