Freshmen Clifton Dawson and Sean Barrett, a football player and a cross country athlete, respectively, have been running like men with a price on their heads in their debut seasons wearing Crimson red.
And then there is Matt Hoff.
All he’s done is earn a position as a starting forward for the men’s soccer team. All he’s done is lead the Crimson in almost every offensive category. His six goals—including three game-winners —and 13 overall points are the best of any Harvard player.
All he’s done is account for one third of the Crimson’s goals on the season and for the go-ahead score in half of the team’s victories.
Not bad for a first-year.
But his play has been even bigger than his statistics demonstrate. Perhaps more importantly, he has successfully filled the vacuum created by early season injuries to senior forward Ladd Fritz and senior midfielder Grayson Sugarman.
“He’s a very natural finisher, which is rare, especially in the Ivies,” said captain Andrew Old. “He’s been unlucky not to have scored even more goals.”
Hoff’s impact was evident this past weekend against Princeton, when the offensive tone shifted for the Crimson as soon as he entered the game midway through the second half.
Harvard’s strategy immediately changed from desperately attempting to knock the ball over the defense’s heads for a breakaway to penetrating with precise passing and dribbling. This style of play fits Hoff to a tee.
Only seven minutes after entering the game against the Tigers, Hoff scored. His athleticism and great instincts allowed him to settle a bouncing ball, make a quick turn and slip it into the corner of the net.
Hoff’s goal was assisted by sophomore forward Brian Charnock. The duo of Hoff and Charnock has proven to be an explosive threat in recent games as the Crimson offense has begun to gel. With both players still in the beginnings of their college careers, they have an opportunity to learn how to work together over the remainder of this season and for years to come. The Harvard attack promises to be a force in the Ivy League for the foreseeable future.
Although everything from his speed to his ball-handling skills to his precise and dagger-like shot could be considered the cause of his success, it’s his everyday hustle that draws the most attention from his teammates.
“A big part of Matt’s game is his work ethic,” said Andrew Old. “He puts us all to shame.”
In fact, some might even compare Hoff to the legendary Charlie Hustle.
“I’ve been watching Matt Hoff for three years,” said Head Coach John Kerr earlier in the season, “and I knew what a potent goal scorer he is and how he works his tail off. He’s got that St. Louis workman-like mentality. It’s infectious. When other players see how talented he is, he works that hard, and he scores goals. He just works his tail off. He’s like Pete Rose.”