After giving up four goals to UConn on Wednesday night, sophomore goalkeeper Austin Harms and the rest of the Harvard men’s soccer team’s defense wanted a shot at redemption.
Luckily for them, they didn’t have to wait long, as the chance to make amends arrived ten minutes into the second half of Saturday afternoon’s key Ivy League game against No. 15 Brown (7-1-4, 2-1 Ivy). Moments after co-captain Andre Akpan had broken the deadlock and given the Crimson a 1-0 lead, sophomore defender Baba Omosegbon was sent off, leaving his team with ten men for the final 35 minutes. But Harms and his defense handled everything that was thrown at them, and the No. 6 Crimson (9-2-1, 2-0-1) came away with a huge 1-0 victory over the Ivy League-leading Bears on Ohiri Field.
Harms summed up the importance of the match simply: “This game was our Ivy League season,” he said.
“I turned around, and I knew the defense wasn’t going to give up a goal,” Akpan said. “We were going to do whatever it took.”
The previous week had not been kind to Harvard. After opening the season by winning eight of its first nine matches, the Crimson sputtered to a 1-1 draw with Cornell, an early setback in its quest for the Ivy League title. The midweek trip to Connecticut followed. The 4-0 loss to the Huskies marked the first game this season that Harvard had allowed more than one goal. In a matchup that was billed as a battle between two of the nation’s top defenses, the lopsided scoreline served as an embarrassing reminder that most of the Crimson’s six shutouts had come against weaker opposition.
“A loss like that is humbling,” Harms said.
Desperately seeking to get their season back on track, the Harvard players did not need any extra motivation going into Saturday’s game against an undefeated Brown team. But a fierce rivalry has developed between the two teams that annually compete for the league title, and the mutual distaste could almost be felt in the cold autumn air.
Chances were few and far between in the first 45 minutes, with both teams getting good opportunities to open the scoring. Brown nearly took the lead in the sixth minute, but Harms did well, diving full stretch to his right to stop Sean Rosa’s strike.
In the 25th minute, senior midfielder Adam Rousmaniere played a perfect ball off a free kick to the back post, where it was met by the head of senior Kwaku Nyamekye. The ball came across goal, just missing Akpan’s foot.
With five minutes remaining in the period, freshman striker Brian Rogers slipped through the Bears’ back line and just beat the Brown keeper—junior Paul Grandstrand—to the ball. But Rogers did not make the connection he would have wanted, and a Bears defender was on hand to sweep away the danger.
But just three minutes into the second half, the Crimson had its lead. Rogers picked up the ball on the left and cut into the middle before playing it through to Akpan in the middle of the box. Fourteen yards out with his back to goal, Akpan turned his defender and fired a quick shot with his left foot that beat Grandstrand. Upon scoring, Akpan ran to his bench to share the moment with his teammates.
But the joy soon turned to dejection, as Omosegbon was sent off in the 56th minute for a foul on Grandstrand. Omosegbon, trying to dribble the ball into the box, took a heavy touch that ran through to Grandstrand. Perhaps frustrated with his poor touch, the sophomore defender decided not to pull out of a tackle on Grandstrand—and paid the penalty for it.
The red card may have been harsh on Harvard, but the Crimson players could not afford to feel sorry for themselves.
The Bears immediately put the Crimson on the back foot and with 25 minutes to go were making Harvard’s 1-0 lead appear very tenuous. But the Crimson back line was up to the task. In a three-minute span, Harms saved twice in one-on-one situations.
“That’s just the job of the goalkeeper, that’s what you do—make those big saves when it matters,” Harms said. “My defense came up big, and when they needed help, I was there.”