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UConn men’s soccer falls to Yale 3-0

The Huskies were shut out for the first time this season.

UConn’s Felix Metzler (8) reacts after missing a shot in the first half.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

It’s been a long time since the UConn men’s soccer team lost to someone from the Nutmeg state. And after stumbling at home against Farleigh Dickinson last Friday, there’s nothing better than to beat up on an in-state rival, right? Right?!

Well, it didn’t quite go that way tonight, with the Huskies falling to Yale 3-0 at Reese Stadium. UConn was shut out for the first time this season, and falls to 2-2 on the young season.

*First Half*

Yale played an extremely high press, and UConn struggled from the jump to circulate the ball. Felix Metzler, returning from a foot injury, had to drop back a lot between the center-backs to get the ball moving. Ditto further up the field for star forward Jordan Hall, who had to drop back and get the ball at his feet. About halfway through, it appeared UConn had weathered the harrowing Yale press, and settled into the game. But in the 31st minute, a UConn turnover and quick Yale counter led to Ryan Matteo with way too much time in the Husky box, who calmly slotted the ball past Gigi Catalano.

Yale was excellent at winning second balls and springing a counter. Two minutes after Yale’s first goal, that exact formula led to a Yale attacker being brought down in the Husky box on a long ball. It was the type of foul that if it didn’t occur, the Yale player would have had a clear-cut goal. Miguel Yuste converted the penalty to put the Huskies down 2-0.

Disaster then struck in the three minutes later. Sloppy clearances led to a 25-yard roll of the dice from Matteo, which took a funky deflection and skied past Catalano. That’s three goals in the span of about six minutes for the Bulldogs, for those keeping score at home. The wheels had fallen off for the Huskies, with sloppy play all over the field and the team in disarray at intermission.

*Second Half*

It didn’t get much better in the second half, with Catalano having to make two point-blank saves in the first six minutes. A bicycle chance from Jordan Hall gave UConn a shot in the arm, and while UConn outshot Yale eight to three in the second half, nothing came of it.

*Summary*

Per the broadcast, Yale coach Kylie Stannard said before the game he “wanted to ask a lot of questions about that UConn backline, ” and they certainly succeeded. UConn’s normally smooth backline was constantly under pressure, and that disrupted the Huskies’ ability to generate any offensive flow. Give Yale credit for coming in tactically sound.

*Other Notes*

Hall was named to the AAC Honor Roll for the second consecutive week. Him and Dayonn Harris led the nation in goals and assists respectively, heading into tonight. Harris and Hall continue to move about the field, as service clearly flows through them. Positionally, their fluidity could be dangerous, if the rest of the attack can be sorted out.

Metzler and Blaise N’Gague both served as holding midfielders, pivoting at times and stacking at others. It can lead to some pretty soccer, when things are clicking. Defensively though, Yale was awarded too much space in the middle of the park right after it won 50-50 balls.

Yale used its subs early, given the heat and playing style. It had a clear effect on the game.

All three goals ultimately boiled down to a frustrated UConn team unable to move the ball, with the subsequent turnover leaving their shape scrambling. There are two tactical ways to fix that. First is to bring an attacking center mid back to the ball more, to support wingers and defenders on an island from pressure.

Second, is to be more aware of spacing. Far too often UConn would turn the ball over with two teammates within five feet of each other. A composed team like Yale can play out of that space in 10 seconds, and the break is on.

While Yale was picked fifth in the Ivy League Preseason poll, make no mistake about it; this was a test for the Huskies. The Bulldogs tied Syracuse and Colgate on the season already, and looked tactically strong and opportunistic. Instead of parking the bus at the half, they came out and attacked UConn all game.

Head coach Ray Reid said before the game that UConn needed to get better in all three phases of the game. That’s still the case now, but the beauty of college soccer is that another game is always 72 hours away usually. It’s a young season, and these kids are too talented to let the season slip away.

Next up for UConn is a Saturday away match against soon-to-be conference foe Georgetown on Sept. 14, at 1:00 p.m.