2013 Season Preview: Seniors’ Influence Goes Beyond Playing Field

Max McKiernan. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Max McKiernan. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Bulldogs Kick Off Season Friday At Fordham

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The 2013 Yale men's soccer team will certainly possess one key ingredient needed for success – a strong corps of seniors.

Nick Alers, Scott Armbrust, Jenner Fox, Peter Jacobson, Tucker Kocher, Max McKiernan and Cody Wilkins have combined to appear in nearly 300 games and form one of the largest senior classes in recent memory.

"Since they arrived on campus, the Class of 2014 has been a bedrock group that has improved steadily and consistently, and I feel that if everything falls into place they should have their greatest on-field impact this year," said Yale head coach Brian Tompkins.

The seven seniors' influence, though, goes beyond the playing field.

"They are a diverse and multi-talented group both on and off the field, and they have set and demonstrated high standards of scholarship and competitiveness for the younger guys," Tompkins said. "Their approach has always been focused and professional, but they also understand the importance of team chemistry and camaraderie and the tone they set has been outstanding."

There will be plenty of support for the seniors. Tompkins has put together a deep and talented roster that should have the Bulldogs in contention in the always challenging Ivy League.

The team's experience should help during a difficult season-opening stretch. Yale plays five of its first six games on the road, starting Friday at Fordham.

Tompkins' message to his team during the preseason has been direct.

"I have been encouraging them to believe in their ability to improve, to pursue excellence rather than perfection and to direct their focus onto the things that they have control of and nothing else," he said. "The keys for success with this team will be based on the ability to marry talent with first-rate effort, focus and execution and to persist and believe in themselves regardless of the obstacles and challenges they may face. If they can accomplish that they can have a significant part to play in the Ivy League title race."

Defense should again be a strength of the team. The Bulldogs posted five shutouts and yielded only 17 goals last season and many of the key components to that success return, including Alers, a three-time All-Ivy selection. He has started all 42 games he has appeared in during his first three seasons at Yale. Last year, he earned honorable mention All-Ivy recognition, despite being limited to 10 games because of an injury. As a sophomore, Alers was a first team All-Ivy selection and also was named to the NSCAA All-Northeast Region third team.

Sophomores Tyler Detorie and Philip Piper both made a significant impact on defense in their rookie year. Detorie started 14 games, the most of any freshman, while Piper appeared in 16 games, including making 11 starts. Piper also gained valuable experience over the summer, helping Force FC Academy of Michigan win the 2013 Super-20 League Championship.

The defense also will welcome back Kocher, who missed all of last season with an injury. He has 22 career starts in his career. Sophomore Lukas Czinger provides solid depth to the defense.

Freshman Henry Flugstad-Clarke was the Somerset Player of the Year and a first team all-league selection at The Pingry School in New Jersey and hopes to make an immediate impact. Two other newcomers will try to earn playing time. Max Cook played with the FC Bolts Celtic u18 Academy last year after being a three-year starter at Duxbury High School in Massachusetts. Sophomore Attila Yaman joined the team last spring

Yale's last line of defense will have a new look as three-year starter and two-time All-Ivy selection Bobby Thalman '13 has graduated. Fortunately, Tompkins has a pair of strong candidates to fill the void created by the loss of Thalman. Junior Blake Brown has not allowed a goal in limited action in his career as a Bulldog. Freshman Ryan Simpson brings strong credentials to New Haven. He earned Prep School all-state honors as a senior at Buckingham Browne & Nichols in Massachusetts.

McKiernan, the team captain, returns to anchor the midfield. He is a two-time honorable mention All-Ivy selection and has started 43 games in his career, including the last 33 he has appeared in. Juniors Conner Lachenbruch and Kevin Michalak both bring a wealth of experience. Lachenbruch was the recipient of the team's Frank Dunne Award as the most improved player last year. He started 15 games after appearing in 12 as a rookie. Michalak started a career-high eight games last year and scored the game-winning goal against Marist.

Junior Peter Ambiel also had a strong sophomore season, appearing in 15 games and starting two. Sophomore Pablo Espinola was a regular in the lineup last year, appearing in 14 games. His first career start came against Central Connecticut in the season opener.

A pair of newcomers hope to make an immediate impact. Sophomore Henos Musie transferred to Yale from Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden, where he played for Sweden's oldest soccer club, Orgryte IS Youth Academy, from 2007 to 2013. Freshman Henry Albrecht also comes to Yale from Europe. He was the top scorer for Munich International School as a junior (9 goals, 14 assists) and senior (12 goals, 15 assists).

Offensively, the Bulldogs return last year's top three scorers. Armbrust and Jacobson both finished with seven points (3 goals, 1 assist), while Fox contributed five points (1 goal, 3 assists). Armbrust made a successful return after missing all of the 2011 season with an injury. Two of his three goals came in Ivy League play. Jacobson also scored two of his goals in league play and started a career-high 14 games. He has 12 goals in his Yale career. Fox's three assists led the team, and he also scored the game-winning goal against Sacred Heart.

Wilkins missed all of last season with an injury but will start the year healthy. He provides the Bulldogs with tremendous athleticism up front. A trio of sophomores should contribute to the offense as well. Avery Schwartz and Mitch Wagner combined to appear in 33 games last year, while Keith Bond was limited to seven games due to injury but has exciting offensive potential.

Freshman Cameron Kirdzik hopes to make an immediate impact. He scored 45 goals in his career at The Pingry School in New Jersey.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity