Sophomore Kwaku Nyamekye (far left) and the Harvard defense shut out Fairfield on Saturday, posting a clean sheet.
At one point two weeks ago the Harvard men’s soccer team (7-1-1) was ranked as high as No. 7 in the country. Currently listed as the 11th-best team in the nation, the defending Ivy League Champions are likely to float back into the top 10 this week after dominating Fairfield (5-2-1) in a 5-0 cakewalk on Saturday.
Harvard dominated the possession in the first half but found itself with only a one-goal advantage at the break. After a quick goal to open the second half, the Crimson was off and running.
When all was said and done, Harvard recorded four second-half goals against a Fairfield team that had let in a mere three goals total in its first seven games.
THE IRON CURTAIN
As the Harvard offense has been pouring in an average of 2.2 goals per game, the defense, led by co-captain and goalie Adam Hahn and sophomore Kwaku Nyamekye, has often been overlooked.
Hahn produced his third shutout of the season against the Stags, with the other two coming against Maine (Sept. 7) and Vermont (Sept. 11).
Hahn, who is a vocal leader in the back, has let in an average of just 0.99 goals per game.
Although it is more difficult to quantify Nyamekye’s contributions, it is obvious that he is the anchor of the defense.
Late in the second half of Saturday’s game, Fairfield was able to send a through ball up the middle to forward David Piedrahita. Piedrahita found himself on a breakaway with the closest Harvard defender 15 yards behind him.
Unfortunately for Piedrahita, that defender was Nyamekye, who was able to run him down and strip the ball away just inside the 18-yard box.
“He reads the game very well,” head coach John Kerr said earlier this season. “He comes up with some unbelievable plays, and everyone in the crowd, and me on the bench, and all the coaching staff just go ‘Wow!’”
Everyone has also been saying “Wow!” to the Crimson’s red-hot offense.
In the winning effort against Fairfield, Harvard got two goals and an assist each from sophomore Andre’ Akpan and junior Michael Fucito.
Akpan, who extended his goal-scoring streak to six games, leads the team with seven goals on the year, while Fucito has six.
To start the scoring, Akpan drew the keeper out of the net before dumping off a pass to Fucito in the middle. Fucito easily tapped a shot into the unguarded net.
Later in the game, Fucito returned the favor by setting up Akpan for an easy score. With one defender on him and the goalie coming out to meet him, the charging Fucito found Akpan, who was taking his turn to be alone in the middle of the box. Akpan one-touched the pass in for the fourth Harvard goal of the game.
Seven Harvard players have scored at least one goal so far this season.
Freshmen Alex Chi is one of those seven. Chi, who is listed at 5’6, spends much of each game running circles around defenders and chasing down balls.
Against the Stags, he scored his second goal of the season on an unassisted play in which he evaded two defenders inside the box before tucking a shot under the goalie’s outstretched arm.
With all those weapons available, perhaps the only surprising thing about Saturday’s massacre was that Harvard was only up 1-0 at halftime.
“I don’t like to put this on us,” co-captain Adam Hoff said earlier this season, “but we are more of a second-half team.”
If Harvard turns it on in the second half of its season—the Ivy League slate, that is—like it has been doing in the second part of games, it may somehow be true that the best is yet to come.
—Staff writer Julia R. Senior can be reached at email@example.com.