The Crimson offense exploded in its first stretch of games this season with goals coming from all around, including the experienced junior Matt Hoff (left) and the breakout rookie striker Andre Akpan.
Though the Harvard men’s soccer team played the roles of guest and host this past week, it didn’t make any friends while challenging Old Dominion and beating its other four opponents for a quick 4-1 start to the season.
The Crimson offense had its way with the non-conference foes, scoring 14 goals over the five games. The spark started when the team scored three goals in a little over six minutes to storm back to within 4-3 against Old Dominion. Despite falling a goal short, Harvard then rolled over Villanova, Maine and Northeastern by scores of 4-1, 3-1, and 4-0, respectively.
The week ended in the Harvard Invitational with the win over Northeastern and a 1-0 victory yesterday over Loyola Marymount.
“For now, our team is approaching this season by focusing on one game at a time and getting better each time we step on the field,” junior Matt Hoff said. “If we maintain that state of mind, our season will go just the way we want, with an Ivy title at the end.”
HARVARD 1, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT 0
After one perfect pass gave the Crimson the lead, its young defense and netminder held on down the stretch to extend the team’s win streak to four.
In the 37th minute, senior Tom Stapleton threaded a tight pass through a couple of Lions defenders to find streaking classmate Charles Altchek—the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year—who touched the ball once and then put it into the back right side of the net.
After the break, Loyola Marymount (3-2) stepped up the pressure and was consistently challenging the Harvard net. A number of good chances from the Lions went just wide, while Crimson junior netminder Adam Hahn stuffed two offerings for his second shutout.
“Today we got a good, mature performance from a young team,” Harvard coach John Kerr said. “They really want to win right now.”
HARVARD 4, NORTHEASTERN 0
In the opening round of the Harvard Invitational, the Crimson played the role of overbearing host, easily dispelling the Huskies by a 4-0 tally.
Harvard thoroughly outshot Northeastern (2-3), 18-5, and dominated play with its offensive prowess throughout the match. The stats were spread across the squad, as three players registered a goal and six got off shots.
Freshman Andre Akpan continued to impress, registering two assists, while sophomore Micheal Fucito put two balls into the back of the Huskies net for the Crimson—one on a flick shot that was deflected and another on a header off a long cross.
First year players Kwaku Nyamekye and Desmond Mitchell also added a goal apiece, while classmate Joseph Alexander played the last ten minutes of the blowout in goal.
“[The freshmen] have given us a lot of energy and brightened up our offense,” Kerr said.
HARVARD 3, MAINE 1
Fucito provided the opening salvo midway through the first half with a blast from the edge of the penalty box that beat Maine (0-5) goalie Giacomo Brunino, and the Crimson rolled from there to its second straight 3-1 decision.
Freshman Adam Rousmaniere added a second first-half goal to give Harvard the cushion it needed as play tightened considerably in the second half. In the latter frame, Hahn—who is entrenched at starting goalie for the first time in his career—had to make two saves but was unable to turn away a third offering.
By that time, however, Harvard had built a three goal lead on Altchek’s second of the season, helping the Crimson cruise to victory.
In front of Hahn was a very young defense that has been changing each game thus far—and against the Black Bears the inexperience did not show.
“We are playing defense by committee right now,” Kerr said. “It seems that the bench is strong and it is nice that we can send in players without losing anything.”
HARVARD 3, VILLANOVA 1
Even with a 1-1 record through the opening two games of play, the Harvard men’s soccer team started out the year with a strong performance.
The Crimson played two games during the URI Invitational on September 1st and 3rd in Kingston, Rhode Island.
Harvard rolled over Villanova (3-1-1), their second opponent in the tournament, by a final score of 3-1 to even their record. For the second straight game their opponent opened the scoring, as the Wildcats notched a goal 9:51 into the game, but the Crimson came back with a vengeance and dominated the offensive play the rest of the way with three goals.
Harvard has a smaller than usual class of returning starters, with sophomores Fucito and John Stamatis, each of whom scored during one of the tournament games. The Crimson also seems to have an upcoming star in Akpan, who scored two of Harvard’s three goals in its opener against Old Dominion.
OLD DOMINION 4, HARVARD 3
Harvard ended up falling to Old Dominion (1-1) in their first game of the year, but the game was not a total loss as this new Crimson team, with only three returning starters, finished on a strong note, something they struggled to do last season.
After trailing 3-0 with only nine minutes left in the game, Harvard was able to make a spectacular comeback. Three goals hit the back of the Monarchs’ net in a little over six minutes.
“After watching the team through preseason after being sidelined with an injury, I was excited to get back on the field,” Hoff said. “With the way our preseason panned out, our whole team was confident going into the first game.”
While the tie did not last long—Old Dominion scored their winning goal in the last minutes of play—the Crimson showed that they can end the game with force.
—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Staff writer Abigail M. Baird can be reached at email@example.com.