As the clock ticked on, counting down the minutes to midnight, it was do or die for the No. 8 Harvard men’s soccer team.
Two periods and an overtime had elapsed under a tumultuous black sky, as the Crimson battled its rival Bulldogs on Yale’s home turf during the Ivy League opener this past Saturday. The whistle blew, signaling the beginning of the second extra period and the departure of the heavy rain that had plagued both teams for the entire game.
Harvard had been held scoreless for its second match in a row and desperately needed to end the stalemate—in other words, the Crimson needed a hero.
In the 102nd minute of play, freshman standout Brian Rogers answered his team’s prayers. The 6’2 forward from Bronxville, N.Y. fired a shot into the left corner of the Bulldog’s net and simultaneously claimed the win for Harvard.
With Rogers’ goal, Harvard pulled out a 1-0 win over Yale, improving its record to 7-1 for the season.
“It was probably the highest point of my career at Harvard so far,” Rogers said. “It’s hard to even describe. That was the first goal of that kind that I’ve scored—it felt really good because I knew how much this game meant.”
But Rogers’ game-winning goal was hardly a solo effort. Senior Adam Rousmaniere and co-captain Andre Akpan combined on the assist, with help from classmate and co-captain Brian Grimm at midfield. The senior triumvirate was able to thwart the Yale defense, culminating in a pass to Rogers at the left post that allowed the freshman to seal the Crimson’s fate.
“It was absolutely [Grimm, Akpan and Rousmaniere] that combined on the goal to really set me up,” Rogers said. “I just happened to be the one in front of the net to tap it home.”
While the Crimson deserved to celebrate its outstanding finish, the body of the game was less than extraordinary. Harvard drastically outshot the Bulldogs, statistically outplaying its foe in every aspect of the contest, a fact that was hardly reflected in the final score.
The Crimson registered twenty-four shots on the night—with seven from Akpan alone—nine of which were on target. Yale, on the other hand, recorded a meager eight shots with none on goal, leaving sophomore goaltender Austin Harms yawning in the Harvard net.
But even with this marked advantage, the Crimson and the Bulldogs remained tied at zero for a majority of the game.
“We were unable to capitalize on a lot of chances,” Grimm said.
Yet, despite this major gameday flaw, the senior captain was impressed with his team’s determination.
“We stuck with it and we were able to keep them from scoring,” Grimm added. “[We] kept working to get our goal that we knew would come.”
Apart from being unable to find the net for a majority of the matchup despite numerous chances, Harvard was also plagued by penalties. Junior Rob Millock was handed the Crimson’s first red card of the season at the beginning of the first overtime.