The Harvard men’s soccer team staged a dramatic comeback over the Tigers on Saturday, scoring two goals in the span of six minutes late in the match.
Even a swollen collarbone couldn’t keep sophomore Kwaku Nyamekye from scoring the game-winning goal.
Thanks to the score, the No. 12 Harvard men’s soccer team (9-2-2, 2-1-0 Ivy) defeated Princeton (3-8-2, 1-2-0), 3-2, with a determined second-half performance on Saturday afternoon at Ohiri Field.
The win was likely crucial in extending the Crimson’s season, with Brown defeating Cornell on Saturday to remain undefeated in Ivy League play and ahead of Harvard in the standings.
“Our season was on the line, and we responded,” sophomore Andre’ Akpan said.
It looked like Nyamekye’s day was over after he went down with an injury to his shoulder with 17 minutes left in the game. But after a few minutes of treatment, Nyamekye remained in the game.
And with 11 minutes remaining and the score tied at 2, Nyamekye found the bottom-right corner of the net off of a through ball from junior John Stamatis.
Although Nyamekye usually plays defense, Harvard coach John Kerr has been eager to move him up to forward when the Crimson needs goals. The sophomore standout made a huge difference up front against the Bears and did the same against the Tigers, scoring key goals and setting up his teammates.
But, for now, it looks like he is too important defensively to be moved permanently.
“Kwaku really gives us a presence in the back,” Kerr said. “We need him there to keep a balance [between offense and defense].”
Nyamekye’s goal, his third of the year, wasn’t the sophomore’s only big moment of the game. Just moments after getting injured, Nyamekye assisted Akpan on a goal that tied the game at 2.
The sequence started when Nyamekye beat a Princeton defender down the sideline and sent a low cross into the box to Akpan, who was streaking toward the near post.
Then the magic that is Andre’ Akpan took over. The sophomore forward redirected the ball with just the lightest of touches, beating Tigers goalkeeper Joe Walter and sending the ball into the left side of the net.
Akpan has now scored in 10 consecutive games, good for the ninth-longest streak in NCAA Division I history. The national record, set by Akron’s Pete Milich in 1962, is 16 consecutive games with a goal.
Despite the impressive streak, Akpan’s priorities remain with his team.
“My goals are not that important,” Akpan said. “I just want to help my team win.”
Akpan’s streak has definitely helped. He is currently the team leader in goals (11) and assists (7).
Akpan’s equalizer was the second Harvard goal of the day. Junior Michael Fucito opened the scoring in the 26th minute after receiving a quick pass in the box from Akpan.
The Tigers responded quickly, however, scoring two goals and taking a 2-1 lead into halftime.
With hopes of winning an Ivy League title and competing for the national championship, the Crimson, which lost to Brown and tied Holy Cross in its last two games, could not afford another loss. Harvard needed a strong second half, and that is exactly what it got.
“We came out and played with a lot more urgency and desire in the second half,” Akpan said.
Co-captain and goalkeeper Adam Hahn shut out Princeton in the second half, recording five saves on the day.
“It was huge to recover,” Kerr said. “The game showed a lot about our character and courage.”
The comeback win keeps the Crimson in the Ivy title race and will likely preserve its high national ranking.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the effort today,” Kerr said. “It was a fantastic performance.”