As the Harvard men’s soccer team travels to California this weekend to compete in the Diadora Classic, it may want to look to its spectacular performance on the West Coast last year for inspiration.
Harvard stunned No. 6-ranked San Diego in a 2-1 thriller as Crimson forward Colin Eyre beat goalie Justin Neerhoff in a one-on-one just 33 seconds into overtime.
Hopefully, the Crimson won’t need overtimes this weekend to protect its current five-game winning streak. Its task at hand is made more difficult due to the lack of familiarity Harvard has with its opponents.
“We really don’t know very much about them,” said freshman midfielder Brian Charnock. “We’ll probably find out specifics the morning of the games.”
Harvard (6-1, 1-0 Ivy) faces San Francisco this Friday and Santa Clara on Sunday in tournament play.
The Crimson is coming off a hard-fought 2-1 win over Providence last Tuesday, in a game where even the players admit they lacked energy.
“We need to come out with more energy than we did against Providence,” said junior midfielder Kevin Ara.
Against the Friars, junior midfielder Ladd Fritz scored off a deflection in the first half, while Ara drilled a deflected ball into the back of the net at the beginning of the second half.
Ara has played extremely well in recent contests for the Crimson, and was named the men’s soccer Ivy League player of the week for his efforts. He scored two goals in each of Harvard’s wins against Maine and Brown last week.
When the Crimson faces San Francisco (4-4), it will have to watch out of for the Dons’ primary offensive threat, tri-captain midfielder Gabe Sturm, who like Ara, has been on a tear lately. He scored both goals in a recent 2-1 win over Fresno State, and has five goals this season, two of them game-winners.
Sunday’s match against Santa Clara (4-3) marks the first meeting between the two schools ever. Santa Clara suffered two setbacks recently, losing to area rivals Berkely and Stanford last week. Forwards Will Weatherly and Keliechi Igwe have played well recently, but the Broncos will need to look for other players for offensive production, as they have were shut out against Stanford, and scored just one goal in the loss to Berkeley.
Defender Jamil Walker could be the person to step up into this role. Despite his position, Walker led the Broncos in shots per game last year with 52, and was second in scoring on the team with three goals.
Harvard will look for both its offense and defense to play with added intensity this weekend, especially at the beginning of games. The team has has gotten off to very slow starts in several of its last contests. Fifteen of the team’s 19 goals this season have come in the second half.
“Its important to keep possesion and stay organized,” Fritz said. “We need to come out stronger.”
—Contributing writer Samita Mannapperuma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org