Yale Athletics

Ahead of Ivy League play this weekend, the Yale men’s soccer team (4–0–3, 0–0–0 Ivy) earned a hard fought draw against No. 4 Duke University (6–0–2, 2–0–1 ACC) with a second half equalizer by Kahveh Zahiroleslam ’24. 

For the first time in their history, the Bulldogs traveled down south to Durham, North Carolina to go to battle against Duke at Koskinen Stadium. The team was looking to replicate the success of the women’s soccer team in their 2005 upset of Duke

Beyond that history, stakes were high as both teams entered the match undefeated so far this season.

“This was a fantastic performance from the group tonight against a very good Duke team,” head coach Kylie Stannard told Yale Athletics. “It was probably our most complete 90 minutes we have had so far which is exciting.”

The Blue Devils had Yale on their heels early on, earning five corner kicks in the opening 10 minutes, with Yale also registering two yellow cards in only 20 seconds. 

With the game still scoreless late in the first half, Duke midfielder Ruben Mesalles whipped a cross in that found an open Felix Barajas at the far post, who took the ball off a bounce and poked it past goalkeeper Elian Haddock ’23 from close range.

Yale came out extremely aggressive in the second half, picking up two more yellow cards and creating several chances. 

“Throughout the first half and second half especially, we could all feel a goal coming, so it did not come as a surprise when [Zahiroleslam] scored,” defender TJ Presthus ’25 told the News. “It was a good result given the circumstances and we showed a lot of resilience that night.”

In the 68th minute, Yale finally equalized off of a well worked give and go by Zahiroleslam and defender Sigfus Árnason ’23. Zahiroleslam drove towards his defender and passed it to an overlapping Arnason, then got it right back in the box and scored with a well-placed finish

The junior forward gave credit to his teammates for setting him up for the goal.

The goal was definitely great to get. Great pass from [Árnason], and [I’m] happy to have been in the right place at the right time to finish the chance,” Zahiroleslam said..

Just as it seemed like Yale was right back in the game, disaster struck, as midfielder Jonathan Seidman ’25 was sent off after receiving a red card, forcing the Bulldogs to play the rest of the game with 10 men. 

With the Elis shorthanded, the final 20 minutes seemed like Duke’s game to win, with Yale focused on preserving the tie.

“We definitely felt we were the better team and had the better chances for the majority of the game, but the red card changed everything,” Zahiroleslam said. 

The Bulldogs’ defense effectively embraced a bend-don’t-break philosophy after the red card, allowing the Blue Devils to keep possession in their defensive zone but making it hard for them to create scoring opportunities.

In the waning seconds of the game, it appeared that Duke’s moment had finally come, as midfielder Cameron Kerr received the ball at the top of the 18-yard box and then shimmied his way through three Yale defenders into prime scoring position. Kerr fired a left footed shot that was saved by Haddock, who showed lightning-quick reflexes to dive and get his gloves on it. After Yale successfully defended a corner kick, the final whistles blew. 

Haddock had high praise for his defense after the game.

“I was incredibly proud of how our guys responded to the challenge of going down a man,” Haddock said. “With 20 minutes left in the game against the number four ranked team in the country, it’s easy to falter and concede. They had a few opportunities in the last 30 seconds where I had to block a shot headed for the bottom corner, but there were countless other blocked shots and goal-line clearances from our team that contributed in that effort.” 

The Bulldogs’ goalie registered five saves to the Duke keeper’s three.

Haddock, Zahiroleslam and Presthus were all adamant that Yale could have come away with more.

“I firmly believe that we would have scored another goal had we not been dealt the controversial red card with so much time left in the game,” Haddock said.

Perhaps looking to avenge the men’s basketball team’s loss suffered at the hands of Duke in the 2016 NCAA tournament, the Blue and White came out extremely physical, racking up a whopping 19 fouls throughout the contest. Their play — which earned four yellow cards and one red card — did not go unnoticed by Duke coach John Kerr, who had a lot to say about Yale’s “chippy” play after the game.

They were aggressive and chippy, and we had to deal with it and stand up to it. … [There was] a lot of frustration out there and it got a bit chippy down the stretch, although it was chippy all game,” Kerr told Duke Athletics

Yale has picked up 19 cards through seven games this year.

The draw snapped Yale’s four game winning streak. The Bulldogs now patiently await the latest update of the United Soccer Coaches top 25 rankings, in which they earned 16 votes last week. 

Yale is seeking to finish in the top 25 for the first time since 1991, where they finished 15th under head coach Steve Griggs. In 1989, the squad finished 19th, led by then Player of the Year Peter Zenobi ’90. 

The Bulldogs will look to continue their chippy but successful play in their Ivy League opener this Saturday at Reese Stadium against Penn. The game will take place at 7:00 p.m. EST.

Ben Raab | ben.raab@yale.edu | @BenHRaab 

Toia Conde Rodrigues da Cunha | toia.conderodriguesdacunha@yale.edu 

Toia Conde Rodrigues da Cunha is the News' Instagram editor. Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, she is studying cognitive science as sophomore. Toia is also a staff reporter for the Sports desk and was a staff photographer.
Ben Raab covers faculty and academics at Yale and writes about the Yale men's basketball team. Originally from New York City, Ben is a sophomore in Pierson college pursuing a double major in history and political science.