Yale found the Harvard men’s soccer team’s breaking point on Saturday, topping the Crimson 1-0 at Ohiri Field.
“We’re pleased to find a way to get a result here, because Harvard played well in the second half, and we had to pin our ears back a bit and withstand a lot of pressure,” said Bulldog coach Brian Tompkins. “It was a bend, but don’t break game for us, and that’s the nature of Ivy games.”
By allowing an early tally on the board that held up throughout the game, the Crimson (4-5-0, 0-1-0 Ivy) became only the second team this season to fall at the hands of Yale (2-6-0, 1-0-0), which opened its season with a six-game losing streak. The match was both teams’ conference opener for the 2004 season.
“I’m disappointed with the results, but very happy with the second-half performance,” Harvard coach John Kerr said. “I thought we looked like odds on to win the game handily. I thought if we would have scored one goal, we would have scored three.”
Despite the numerous chances and runs in the second half, Harvard managed only one shot on goal the entire game.
The Bulldogs notched the only score after a controversial call awarded them a free kick a few yards off the endline and the Harvard box.
As Kerr ran down the sidelines screaming at the referee and the fans and bench booed and hissed, Yale’s Ryan Raybould took the free kick and placed it on the left side of the goal for teammate Andrew Dealy, who headed it into the net.
“[Raybould] was looking for Dealy to come into that area,” Tompkins said. “It was just a well-executed header. We caught them sleeping there for a second. I was holding my breath from the second we scored our goal.”
After a sluggish first half in which the Crimson put together only a few good scoring chances, Harvard kept the pressure on the Bulldogs throughout the second frame.
Ten minutes after halftime, sophomore Tom Stapleton—in the game as an offensive defenseman meant to spark some runs on goal—found classmate Matt Hoff streaking up the left side of the field. Hoff faked his defender by stopping the ball and making a move to his right. Just inside the box, Hoff let a shot fly, sending the ball so that it curved just over the right corner of the goal, prompting him to lift up his shirt and bite the end of it in frustration.
“We knew part of their game plan was going to be to hit the corners and let them just run,” said junior captain and defender Will Craig. “So we tried to hold a high line and stop them from being able to run. The second half we executed much better than in the first half.”
The reason the Crimson felt it could have scored a number of goals on Yale was because of their ability to keep the pressure and ball on the Bulldogs half of the field.
“We were trying to get behind them a lot in the first half,” Tompkins said. “That’s why we were a bit more direct in our play. They struggled with that in the first half. In the second half, they pushed their backs forward a lot more and gave us a lot more problems.”
Harvard’s inability to take advantage of numerous free kicks and corner kicks in the second half was one reason it failed to put one past Bulldog goalie Geoff Hollington.
“It’s disappointing that our service into the box on set pieces has not been good enough,” Kerr said. “It’s frustrating because we work on it. We did create a lot of opportunities and we have to make other teams pay when they foul us in dangerous situations.”
Despite the return of sophomore Charles Altchek to the Harvard offense, the unit was still incomplete. In the final minutes of Tuesday’s loss against Maine junior Anthony Tornaritis—the Crimson’s point leader for the season—was given a red card.
Along with the rest of the Crimson, Altchek has a week to rest until Harvard’s next game. The Crimson hosts Cornell (1-7-0, 0-1) next Saturday at 3 p.m.
—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.