Senior midfielder Kevin Ara finished the year second on the team in goals (five) and points (14). Ara was taken in the third round of the MLS SuperDraft by D.C. United.
Coming into the season, the Harvard men’s soccer team was considered by senior midfielder Kevin Ara to be one of the “favorites for the Ivy League [title].” But the Crimson fell far short of that mark, ending the year at a pedestrian sixth place in the conference as individual accomplishments became areas of greatest note.
“I think everybody on the team is disappointed with the finish we had, considering the talent we had on the team,” sophomore defender William Craig said of the team’s season-ending losses to Penn (2-1) and Columbia (2-0) which left Harvard with a 2-4-1 Ivy record (8-6-3 overall).
The impressive individual performances were turned in by freshman forward Matt Hoff, who became just the third player in Harvard history to win the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award, and senior midfielder Kevin Ara, who was the highest-drafted Ivy player in this year’s MLS SuperDraft.
Hoff finished third in the league and first on his team for points (18) and goals (eight), despite starting only 13 games due to injury.
Ara—who ended the year with the third-most shots in the league—was taken as D.C. United’s second pick and the 24th overall after the club selected 14-year-old sensation Freddy Adu as the top pick overall.
After the January draft, Ara spent the spring semester traveling between Cambridge and Washington to complete his requirements for graduation, and expects to see more playing time now that he can focus on soccer. He got his first minutes during United’s 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution on May 29.
For the team in general, though, injuries proved to be a great limiting factor. Ara was one of just three players, along with Craig and captain Andrew Old, who started all 17 games.
Of most serious concern throughout the year were the goalies.
Sophomore Ryan Johnson—a backup last season—ended up playing most of the year with shoulder and calf injuries after junior Jamie Roth sat out all but one game with a preseason groin injury.
Roth only played in the contest against Hartford on Sept. 20. Junior Conrad Jones started the year in goal, but left due to a back problem he reinjured during the team’s 2-2 tie against Fairfield on Sept. 17.
“We had no idea who was going to be in goal every week, due to the injuries,” Ara said.
Coach John Kerr ended up bringing senior Russell Mosier—a senior on the men’s volleyball team who only played his freshman year—and freshman Jim Treadway, who started out on the JV team, to the varsity squad. Mosier was the only one of the two to see playing time.
After beginning the year 1-1-2, the Crimson felt it had finally turned a corner after it won two out of three during a five-day stretch against Maine, Duke and then-No. 8 North Carolina.
The Tar Heels dealt Harvard its only loss during that stretch, and UNC later lost to N.C. State during a shootout in ACC championship final and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“I thought the Duke game was one of the best games of the season,” Ara said. “We were pretty confident coming out of there. We thought we were a good team. If we could play with the No. 8 [UNC] team, then we could play with anybody.”
Following this streak, Harvard lost to Yale, 1-0, in its Ivy debut, and tied Cornell, 1-1, the next week as Big Red goaltender David Mahoney made 11 saves. After the game, Kerr remarked that the Cornell netminder probably had “the best game of his college career.”
The Crimson then reeled off four victories in its next five games, only losing to the eventual league champions, Brown, 3-0, along the way on Oct. 18.
After the Brown loss came the less-than-stellar performances against Columbia and Penn, as Harvard was left with two tough losses to cap a season that began with so much promise for a team with 11 experienced seniors.
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.