The Harvard men's soccer team needed to outscore Boston University last night to get back into the New England title race.
The Terriers had to outplay the Crimson to reaffirm their number-three ranking in the region and remain contenders for an NCAA bid.
But first, somebody had to outguess the unpredictable turf of Nickerson Field.
Not an easy task.
The ball bounced everywhere but in goal on the hard, artificial surface, leaving Harvard and B.U. deadlocked, 0-0, after regulation and two ten-minute overtimes.
"On such a poor suface for soccer, you're going to have very few goals," Harvard Coach Mike Getman said. "It's unfortunate that two teams of this quality have to play on such a field."
Nickerson Field, which does double-duty as the home surface for the B.U. football team, is harder, bouncier and narrower (65-ft. wide compared to 75-ft. wide Ohiri Field) than the standard soccer surface.
The Crimson--which likes to go wide when pushing the ball up the field--started with a cramped and hesitant running game in the first half, trying to anticipate the reaction of the ball and create chances out of the corners.
But the opportunities hopped, skipped and jumped away.
"We waited on balls we should have gone to because we didn't know if it would skip or bounce or what," Getman said. "It was really a ping-pong game."
B.U., familiar with the unpredictability of its home surface, slammed long balls down the field rather than repeating Harvard's mainly futile attempts to control the ball and maintain possession in the midfield.
"We created more chances off regular plays," Harvard Captain Robert Bonnie said. "We got it into corners and knocked some balls across. Their stuff was pounded up to the poles."
Harvard made several well-placed cross passes, but finishing off scoring opportunities continued to be a problem for the Crimson. In nine games this season, Harvard has scored only 11 goals (1.2 goals-per-game average).
"We played some good balls in but we couldn't settle the ball," Getman said. "We just had to kick it and run."
The Crimson--frustrated by an inability to play its style of soccer--fell back to play defense and concentrated on preventing rather than scoring goals for much of the second half. Following a pair of runs by senior left wing Ramy Rajballie minutes after halftime, the Crimson failed to pressure offensively for a ten-minute span.