The Ohiri Field faithful responded to Kwaku Nyamekye’s late equalizer, but the sophomore’s score went for naught in Harvard’s 3-2 loss.
Saturday’s matchup between the No. 7 Harvard men’s soccer team (8-2-1, 1-1-0 Ivy) and the No. 20 Brown Bears (9-1-1, 2-0-0) was supposed to pit the Ivy League’s two best teams against each other. It did.
It was supposed to be a physical battle from start to finish. It was.
And it was supposed to play a huge role in deciding who will be crowned the Ivy League champion next month. But after losing, 3-2, in overtime, the Crimson is hoping it doesn’t.
Despite pulling itself even twice in the final 20 minutes, Harvard could not find the necessary goal in extra time and instead had to watch Brown, coming off overtime wins over Princeton and No. 5 Boston College, celebrate its third straight victory.
“You have to hand it to them,” co-captain Matt Hoff said. “They scrapped, they worked their butts off, they wanted it more than we did.”
“We played quite well, [and I am] disappointed that we didn’t put them away when we had the chance,” coach John Kerr added.
SWITCHING THE FIELD
With 15 minutes remaining, and the Crimson trailing, 2-1, Kerr moved defenseman Kwaku Nyamekye up to forward, hoping that he could provide the extra push needed to get the equalizer.
Nyamekye did not disappoint, scoring off Fucito’s corner kick in the final seven minutes.
“Whenever we move Kwaku up, we feel a little bit more of a sense of urgency,” Hoff said. “Having a big guy like that up there is just a huge presence.”
Sophomore Andre’ Akpan scored the first Harvard goal when he got his head on a long cross from junior Marcel Perl. With his back to the net, Akpan flicked the ball past the diving Bears keeper.
With that score, Akpan has now recorded a goal in each of the past eight games. He leads the team in goals (nine) and assists (six).
A DIFFERENT STYLE
The golden goal came during a scramble in front of the Harvard net in the 96th minute. It is fitting that the winning tally can be attributed to Brown’s scrappy play because it was a style that was on display throughout the contest.
In the 90 minutes of regulation, the Bears were called for 27 fouls to the Crimson’s 11. The strategy proved to be very effective in slowing down the fast Harvard attackers. Each time the speedy Crimson players would take off down the wing, a Brown defensemen would be there to force a whistle and stop play.
The constant whistling disrupted the Harvard offense and allowed the Bears to get their defenders back behind the ball.
“That is their style of play,” Kerr said. “Brown is very aggressive, and it is up to the referee to stop some of the cheap fouls.”
Since there are no playoffs in the Ivy League, the championship is awarded to the team with the best record at the end of the regular season schedule. To win the title last year, the Crimson went undefeated against Ivy foes.
If Harvard is going to repeat this year, it will most likely need to win the rest of its games and then get some help from other Ivy teams. The Bears still have five Ancient Eight games left, and the Crimson will need them to do no better than 4-1-0 in those contests if it is going to have a chance of holding the trophy up again this year.
“We just need to rebound, keep our heads up,” Hoff said. “If we win out the Ivy League, I like our chances of having another ring.”
—Staff writer Julia R. Senior can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.