MEN’S SOCCER: Bulldogs win 2–1 in last home game of the season
The Yale men’s soccer team defeated Brown 2–1 on Saturday night in the last home game of the season.
The Yale men’s soccer team claimed a 2–1 victory against Brown on Saturday. The victory marked the Bulldogs’ Senior Day — their last home game of the season. The team’s sole senior Enzo Okpoye ’22 was celebrated by teammates and fans alike during his last game at Reese Stadium.
The Bulldogs (7–4–4, 4–0–2 Ivy) grabbed their fourth Ivy win with two goals from forward Kahveh Zahiroleslam ’24, who is now tied with forward Paolo Carroll ’23 for most Eli goals this season. The Yale defense stayed strong against the Bears (6–9–1, 2–3–1 Ivy) until the final minute when Brown’s Charlie Adams got the ball past keeper Elian Haddock ’23 to deny Yale the shutout.
“We just want to keep it compact,” defender TJ Presthus ’25 said about the team’s defensive strategy. “Establish our line of pressure early, win the first and second balls. It’s huge having [Jeremy Haddock] next to me. You know your best offense is a great defense, so we wanted to set up a counterattack and see what we could do off of that.”
The game kicked off on Saturday with high attacking energy on both sides, but the match remained scoreless in the first half. Yale worked hard to create chances, setting up a few strong shots that just barely missed the mark. Elian Haddock and the Bulldog defense restricted Brown’s ability to make quality shots, with the opponent’s three shots requiring just one save from the Yale keeper.
The Elis recorded the game’s first shot on goal seven minutes into the contest as midfielder Sigfus Arnason ’23 fired a shot at Brown keeper Max Waldau that was ultimately saved. Minutes later, forward Eric Lagos ’24 launched a shot that went over the crossbar. Brown recorded a shot on goal with 15 minutes remaining in the half as the Bears found a shooting opportunity off of a corner kick.
When the teams returned for the second half, the Bulldogs began to take control of the game. In the 56th minute, Yale got its first big chance. A flurry of action in the box ended with the ball at the feet of Arnason, who crossed the ball in the air to find Zahiroleslam. The sophomore forward headed it past the Brown keeper to complete the play and get Yale on the scoreboard.
Just seven minutes later, Zahiroleslam found the back of the net again. With the ball at his feet inside the box, Zahiroleslam tapped the ball between the defender’s legs before firing a shot into the top left corner. Zahiroleslam’s fancy footwork doubled Yale’s lead and provided some breathing room for the Elis in the final 28 minutes of play. The goal was Zahiroleslam’s seventh of the season, matching Carroll for the most on the team. The forward’s two goals also earned him Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors for the fourth time this season.
“It was definitely a great feeling, working all week, getting ready for this one,” Zahiroleslam said. “We don’t have mid-week games anymore, so our focus is to fine-tune for the Ivy League games at the end of the week. And it’s just the product of a lot of hard work put in honestly since the beginning of the year, back in August when we got together for the first time. So just super happy we could win our last game this year at home, and good for Enzo — he’s put in a lot of work for this program.”
Despite being down two goals, the Bears continued to create chances until the final whistle. With four seconds remaining on the clock, Brown player Charlie Adams rocketed a long-distance, right-footed shot on target. The shot, struck with power and precision, got past Elian Haddock and narrowed the margin to one. On the ensuing kickoff, the Bulldogs hit a long ball down the field to allow time to expire, sealing the 2–1 win.
Although Yale remains undefeated in Ancient Eight play, a series of ties against conference opponents such as Penn and Harvard put them out of contention for an Ivy League championship. Princeton — who the Bulldogs face this weeked in their final game — secured a 1–0 victory against Penn over the weekend, clinching the Ivy championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament. The Tigers are four points ahead of the Blue and White in the standings, so a Yale win next weekend will not be enough to catch up.
For Okpoye, the team’s only senior, the win over Brown held extra significance. Family and friends traveled long distances to watch the senior play in his final game. Okpoye, who has suffered a number of injuries throughout his career with the Blue and White, saw somewhat more limited time this season as he recovered. Nevertheless, he brought experience and knowledge from past years to the young roster. Okpoye played center back throughout the team’s 2019 championship season.
“It’s obviously my last game, so it’s really special,” Okpoye told the News postgame. “This just, like, adds that little bit of extra emotion. I don’t even know how to express it tonight. All of my friends are here, family 5000 miles away from home, so the people I call family are here tonight. That’s not every other weekend for me, so it’s just that much more special.”
Yale travels to New Jersey for its final game of the season against Princeton on Saturday. The matchup kicks off at 4 p.m.