With the sun shining favorably on Saturday, the defending Ivy League champion and 15th-ranked Harvard men’s soccer team opened its 2007 campaign with a win against the defending Atlantic 10 champion, No. 22 Rhode Island.
“This is a great win for us,” co-captain Matt Hoff said. “This is one of the better teams we are going to play all season.”
Fifteen minutes into the second half, with the score locked at 2-2, Hoff collected a pass on the right wing from junior defender Marcel Perl. Hoff then split two Rams, tripping up one and cutting past the next, before finding free space at the top of the 18-yard box and launching a left-footed shot passed the Rhode Island keeper.
“I saw an opportunity to take on a few guys and got in the right position and just put it away,” Hoff said.
The co-captain’s goal gave the Crimson a 3-2 lead that was anything but comfortable. Although Harvard had a couple more dangerous opportunities, most of the final 30 minutes was spent in the defensive half of the field, clearing out repeated Ram bids on net.
One of Rhode Island’s most threatening chances came on a corner kick late in the game. The crossed ball reached an unguarded Ram waiting on the far post, but his header went just wide and the Crimson was able to hold on for the win.
“They created some havoc for us in the second half that we had to deal with,” said Harvard head coach John Kerr. “I am really happy that we got the right result here.”
One of the reasons the Crimson got that result was freshman Alex Chi. Less than 10 minutes into the contest, Chi scored the first goal of his collegiate career.
The tally came when Hoff played the ball to sophomore Andre Akpan who was cutting inside the box. Akpan threaded a pass through two defenders while Chi slipped in behind them in time to receive the ball and place a shot inside the far post.
“I was really nervous, but at the same time, really excited,” Chi said of the game. “Andre played a perfect ball…and I just shot it.”
Chi’s play earned him praise from coaches and teammates.
“He is constantly on the move… and he scored a wonderful goal to open scoring,” Kerr said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Hoff agreed, saying, “He opened a lot of opportunities and had a nice goal…we have high expectations for him.”
Later in the first half, with the score tied at 1, defender Kwaku Nyamekye won the ball and continued to make a run up the field while Hoff sent a pass down the wing to junior Mike Fucito.
Fucito crossed to Nyamekye in the middle, and with defenders converging in around him, Nyamekye ripped a shot that became Harvard’s second goal of the day.
Along with Chi, rookies Robert Millock and Jaren LaGreca also saw action during the season opener. Millock started on defense and LaGreca came in as a midfield substitute in both halves.
—Staff writer Julia Senior can be reached at email@example.com.