Looking to rebound from last weekend’s Ivy loss to Penn, the Harvard men’s soccer team had its eyes set on snatching a pivotal road win against the University of Rhode Island (URI).
Playing at the URI Soccer Complex, the Crimson (5-4-0, 0-1-0 Ivy) tried to regain its composure late in the second half after trailing the hosts 2-0 through efficient and concise play, highlighted by a brilliant display of artistry to cut the lead in half.
Unfortunately for Harvard, the equalizer would not come, and the team left the field with a 2-1 loss, its second defeat in as many games.
The Crimson battled valiantly through most of the first half, keeping pace with the hosts as the teams traded glancing blows at the goal to no avail. Characterized generally as an even half of steadiness with brief occurrences of excitement, the Rams (3-3-3) quickly managed to take the upper hand late in the first.
Following a yellow card suffered by sophomore defender Luke Sager, the Rams capitalized off a rebound from a free kick and placed a well-timed shot past Harvard junior goaltender Adam Hahn and into the back of the net to go up 1-0.
URI, using the momentum accumulated during the first half, scored early in the second half off an excellent through pass to push the lead to 2-0 in the 61st minute.
The Crimson never lost their spunk, however, and pushed with intrepid determination through the second half.
Slight redemption would come in the 81st minute when freshman sensation Andre Akpan cleverly placed a cross to senior forward and captain Charles Altchek in front of the goal. Altchek deftly dribbled around the Rams’ goalie to cut the lead in half.
“Overall it was a good effort, we played better today then we did Saturday night,” Altchek said. “We played a lot better in the second half and came out with much more enthusiasm”.
Although Harvard was far more productive with its shots in the second half, the statistics in both halves favored URI, as the Rams produced 19 total shots—nine in the second half—besting the Crimson’s shot total in each half by five and four, respectively.
As a team, the well-balanced play of the experienced players combined with the energy of the freshman led to exciting chances, albeit none that in the end changed the final outcome of the game. Altchek led the team with two shots on net, but the Crimson were also sparked by the play of two freshmen as Desmond Mitchell provided a late shot on goal and Akpan provided the assist for Harvard’s lone goal.
“I think [the older] guys are doing a good job making the freshmen feel comfortable and some of the older guys are using their experience to help out on the field,” Altchek said.
The Crimson must now put this game behind it and prepare for Saturday’s intense matchup against its old rivals from New Haven, the Yale Bulldogs.
Not just a vital Ivy League match, Harvard is in the midst of a 1-3 stretch over the past four games and must quickly find the form it possessed earlier in the season when it started with a stellar 4-1 record.
“The older guys are in their last year now and have experience with tough losses,” Altchek said. “Nobody likes to lose and I hope the freshman learn from this and get ready for our game on Saturday.”
It will certainly be gut check time for the Crimson come Saturday, as it hopes to vanquish the demons left behind in Kingston, R.I.