MEN’S SOCCER: Bulldogs lose first two games, look forward to next game on Friday
The Yale men’s soccer team lost to West Virginia and UMass and is now focused on the in-state rivalry game against UConn at home on Friday.
In the first week of the season, the Yale men’s soccer team (0–2–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) dropped consecutive contests against the undefeated University of West Virginia (4-0-0, 0-0-0 Sunbelt) and University of Massachusetts (2-1-1, 0-0-0 A10).
The team will look to turn the season around starting with their game against the University of Connecticut (2-1-0, 0-0,0 Big East) this Friday.
“Something that we’ve all learned is that there are no easy games in college soccer,” midfielder Max Rogers ’24 said. “No matter who we’re playing against, we have to ensure that we come mentally and tactically prepared and ready to compete physically.”
The season opener against West Virginia remained tied and evenly contested until a controversial handball call in the 33rd minute gifted the Mountaineers a penalty, which Yutaro Tsukada converted to go up 1–0. After halftime, West Virginia was able to extend their lead with a goal in the 52nd minute by Marcus Caldeira. The game finished with a final score of 2–0 in favor of the Mountaineers.
In the Bulldog’s second game, played at UMass Amherst, they were able to stay within a goal of their opponent until nearly the end of the game, when the Minutemen brought the final score to 3–0. Goals were scored in the 16th and 81st minutes by Alec Hughes, and in the 74th minute by Brad Moccio.
The losses provided some valuable lessons for the team as they look forward to the season ahead.
Despite the losses, coaches and players alike were able to find some positive takeaways from the first week of the season.
“In game, I think our defensive press and structure, when set, has been good, but we need to improve on our counter-press and defensive transition,” head coach Kylie Stannard said. “I think the group is coming together well on and off the field and the relationships and continuity will only improve.”
Team captain Jake Schaffer ’24 agreed with his coach’s defensive assessment, attributing some of the goals they conceded to the team’s own mistakes, rather than opponents breaking them down defensively.
Among more positive takeaways, Rogers mentioned that there is a sense of calmness and composure amongst the group in the wake of the first two games. He was proud to see the team continue to fight for the full 90 minutes in both games regardless of the score line.
Additionally, Rogers said the team was happy with the first years getting their first taste of college soccer and doing well. Schaffer also mentioned the team’s youth when reflecting on the first two games.
“We are a relatively young team,” Schaffer said. “And it is going to take a couple games for us to settle in. Each game is an opportunity to grow together.”
The Bulldogs will meet their next opponent, UConn, at Reese Stadium at 7 p.m. on Friday. UConn will come to New Haven looking to pick up their third win of the season, having beat Holy Cross 4–0 and Siena College 3–1.
The Huskies are not undefeated, however, picking up a loss against Long Island University.
“UConn is our intrastate rival and the perfect opportunity for us to turn the tide after a disappointing weekend,” Rogers said.
When asked about Friday’s opponent, Coach Stannard told the News that the Bulldogs have a lot of respect for UConn and consider the game a big test.
Even so, Stannard made sure to keep the focus on his team.
“They are a very good team and we will be prepared for them,” Stannard said, “But, as cliché as it sounds, our main focus right now is on us and making sure we are improving and coming together.”
After Friday, the Bulldogs will travel to Dallas, Texas to face Southern Methodist University on Monday, Sept. 11 before returning to Reese Stadium to host the University of California, Irvine on Saturday, Sept. 16.