Crimson Proves Mettle on Tricky California Swing

Harvard fights to a draw with defending champs UCSB after loss on Friday

SO CAL, SO GOOD
Thomas J. Beckford

Is Harvard long for the top 10? Junior Michael Fucito, shown here in previous action, had one of the No. 7 Crimson’s two goals in a 3-2 loss to Loyola Marymount on Friday night. The team rebounded to tie the defending national champions from Santa Barbara

Los Angeles, the city of sunshine and success, did not have all too much of either to offer the Harvard men’s soccer team this weekend at the Loyola Marymount Invitational.

The No. 7 Crimson (6-1-1) lost its opener to the host, Loyola Marymount (2-4), on Friday, before playing to a 1-1 tie with No. 14 UC Santa Barbara (3-2-2) yesterday.

A rainstorm that was expected in Los Angeles Friday evening arrived a bit early, pouring down during Harvard’s afternoon match against LMU. The weather made for some sloppy playing conditions that forced the coaches from Harvard and UCSB to move yesterday’s game to the Gacuhos’ home field nearly 100 miles away, instead of playing on the saturated field.

HARVARD 1, UC SANTA BARBARA 1

For the fifth straight game, sophomore Andre’ Akpan did what he does best: score goals.

Early in the second half, still in a scoreless tie with the defending national champions, junior midfielder John Stamatis threaded a pass to Akpan in the box.

Akpan challenged the Gaucho keeper with a knock to the far corner that slipped in and gave Harvard the 1-0 advantage.

Akpan now has five goals and four assists on the season, good for the team lead in both categories.

“He is a very good player,” head coach John Kerr said. “He is always dangerous.”

But UCSB, which out shot Harvard, 27-12, would not be shut out on its home field in front of nearly 1,000 of its fans.

With 15 minutes remaining, the Gauchos’ Ciaran O’Brien teed up a corner kick that found teammate Chris Pontius’ head in front of the net.

Pontius redirected the ball past Harvard goalkeeper and senior co-captain Adam Hann to tie the game at 1.

Despite giving up the late-game goal, Hahn turned in a seven-save effort that allowed the Crimson to stay even with an extremely skilled UCSB squad.

“They are easily the best team we have played this year,” Kerr said. “It was difficult conditions...I am proud of how [Harvard] performed.”

LOYOLA MARYMOUNT 3, HARVARD 2

It took three weeks and a trip across the country, but at last Harvard lost its first game of the year. Loyola Marymount, the invitational tournament’s host, snuck past the Crimson, 3-2, in the Friday afternoon matchup.

With Harvard trailing 2-0 in the 62nd minute, Akpan connected with junior Michael Fucito, who was positioned in the middle of the field. Fucito detonated a 25-yard blast that nicked the cross bar on its way into the net and brought the Crimson within one.

But the Lions were eager to defend their den, and took advantage of a free-kick opportunity from midfield just two minutes later.

The set piece was lofted into the box where an LMU attacker headed the ball down to Steffen Canty, who poked in the winning goal.

“They were able to capitalize on some of their set pieces, and we paid the price for not concentrating,” Kerr said.

Later, with just over 10 minutes to play, freshmen Jaren LoGreca and Alex Chi worked the ball down the right side and into the middle for Akpan, who tapped it in for the score.

But the tally did little more than make for an interesting finish, as the Crimson could not come up with the tying goal in the waning minutes.

—Staff writer Julia R. Senior can be reached jrsenior@fas.harvard.edu.

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