MEN’S SOCCER: Rollercoaster week for men’s soccer sees last-minute goals and Bulldogs’ first win
The Yale men’s soccer team beat intrastate rival UConn at home before losing to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas in the closing minutes later in the week.
The Yale men’s soccer team had an eventful weekend.
On Friday, the Bulldogs defeated the University of Connecticut Huskies with a final score of 2-1. It was a contest full of goal-scoring chances for both teams, and it proved captivating enough to keep the crowd’s attention through nearly two hours of rain delays.
The game was originally set to start at 7 p.m., but inclement weather pushed kickoff to 7:35 p.m., with neither team aware that there would be further delays.
“It’s easy to get distracted when your pregame routine is thrown off,” Yale goalkeeper Chris Edwards ’24 said. “We had to stay extra focused.”
Despite the delay, the teams were sharp from the first whistle, and both goalies were put to the test within the first ten minutes of play. Edwards made the night’s first save in the sixth minute, which UConn’s Jayden Hibbert matched with a double save in the eighth minute. Edwards continued his stellar start with an impressive kick save in the 29th minute, preventing a counterattack goal and keeping the game scoreless.
At roughly 8:25 p.m., with seven minutes left to play in the first half, fans and players alike went from confused to disappointed as the game was delayed once more due to lightning. Attendants at Reese Stadium waited patiently as the announced recommencing time changed from 8:50 to 9:15 to 9:30 p.m.
“The delay in the middle of the game slowed everything down and took some energy from the game,” Edwards said. “But it also gave us almost an hour to make adjustments and discuss the things that were working and the things that weren’t.”
After the delay, the teams finished the first half scoreless. The second half would prove to be a different story. Just five minutes into the second half, a cross from Max Rogers ’24 found its way toward the back post where Quanah Brayboy ’25 played a one-touch pass to Yale striker Eric Lagos ’24. Lagos converted the chance and gave the Bulldogs their first goal of the season.
Just two minutes later, Yale took advantage of this momentum and quickly doubled its lead. After Joseph Farouz ’27 won the ball near half field and found Kai Moos ’24 on the right wing, Moos crossed the ball into the box. Lagos, in true #9 fashion, buried a header into the UConn net to complete his brace and put Yale up 2-0 in the 52nd minute of the game.
“The rain delay personally helped me get back on the field in the second half,” Lagos said. “I went down injured in the first half and the extra time allowed me to recover before the start of the second half.”
While the mid-game delay may have proved beneficial to the Bulldogs, the game was far from over. With the spotlight now on the team’s defense to secure the game, one of Yale’s supposed strong suits lived up to the challenge. Edwards proved crucial once again with an extraordinary save in the 70th minute. The Huskies managed to get on the scoreboard with less than two minutes to go in the game thanks to a header by Lucas Almeida. However, it proved to be too little too late, and Yale was victorious.
Thanks to a combined defensive and offensive effort, along with some standout players, Yale secured its second win against UConn since 2003. The 2-1 victory also marked the first of the 2023 season for the Bulldogs.
“It’s hard to describe how amazing it feels to celebrate in the corner with your teammates,” Lagos said. “I was relieved when the final whistle blew considering all the saves Chris had to make.”
After a drawn out and tiring game against UConn, the team had to quickly shift its focus to Monday’s game against Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
While traveling does provide some added difficulties, Coach Kylie Stannard said it was nothing out of the ordinary.
“We are used to quick turnarounds in college soccer, especially early in the season when we have the bulk of our non-conference games,” Stannard said. “Adding a flight to this turnaround is an extra challenge but all of the guys we have in the team have made trips like this in the past while at Yale or within their youth club environments.”
Stannard also said there are some advantages to being the away team on a weekday, as the team is able to rest more than normal and focus on physical, mental and tactical preparation. Stannard told the News that it can help them be even more focused at times.
Edwards also commented on the travel, adding that it is interesting to play teams from different regions in order to see varying styles of play and field surfaces. He also shared that the travel can be great for team chemistry.
“You are with all of your teammates the entire time,” Edwards said. “Eating, playing games, walking around or just hanging.”
The game against SMU featured heartbreaking moments for Yale at both beginning and end. In the third minute of the game, Rogers took a freekick that hit the post, and the resulting rebound was put into the goal. Unfortunately, the goal was rescinded due to an offside call. From then on, it was a tight contest that saw Edwards’ saves keep the score locked at 0-0.
The closing minutes of the game brought tragedy for Yale, as an 86th-minute goal by SMU’s Fredrik Skilberg proved to be decisive. Despite a strong effort and a disallowed goal, Yale lost the game 1-0.
“We definitely feel we deserved more from the game with a very strong performance,” Stannard said. “Even if that was coming away with a clean sheet and a draw against such a strong opponent on the road … We are strong defensively but we also need to make sure we learn even more what it takes to finish a game for the full 90 minutes and earn shutouts. If we do that, we can accomplish great things.”
The Bulldogs’ next two games will be back at home: first against the University of California, Irvine, on Saturday, Sept. 16, and then against Colgate on Tuesday, Sept. 19.