So far this season, opponents of the Harvard men’s soccer team have been denied more times than freshman guys trying to enter final clubs. The Crimson defense, led by sophomore goalkeeper Austin Harms and senior defender Kwaku Nyamekye, has surrendered just three goals in Harvard’s first eight games.
The No. 8 Crimson (7-1, 1-0 Ivy) looks to continue its dominance at the back this afternoon when it hosts in-state rival Holy Cross (3-6, 1-1 Patriot) at 3:00 p.m.
“I think [our defense has] been the constant to our whole season,” Harvard coach Jamie Clark said. “Anytime you’re [allowing] below a half goal a game, you’re doing well.”
This defensive success has come as a result, not only of skill, but also of teamwork.
“Our communication has kept a lot of dangerous plays to a minimum,” said Harms, who posted a .55 goals against average in his freshman season—good for 11th in the nation.
And through the Crimson’s first eight games of 2009, Harms has been even better. Harms is sporting a .38 goals against average with five shut outs. His clean sheet against Army on September 13th helped propel Harvard into the national rankings for the first time this season.
Despite its exceptional start to the season, the Crimson found itself in a tricky spot this past Saturday night. After dropping its first game of the season to then-No. 3 Wake Forest, Harvard had failed to score a goal in regulation in its Ivy League opener against Yale. The team was just minutes away from a tie which would have seen it enter the heart of conference play in a significant hole.
But freshman forward Brian Rogers gave the Crimson the win in the 103rd minute, breaking the 0-0 tie by placing the ball in the left corner of the net for his fifth goal of the season.
“He’s finding himself to be a consistent threat and also reliable in the clutch,” Clark said.
This afternoon, Harvard hopes to use its momentum from last Saturday’s win to defeat Holy Cross, before moving on to its second Ancient Eight contest this weekend at Cornell.
“I think that everyone is excited that we got back on the right track after [the loss to Wake Forest],” said Rogers, who earned his second Ivy League Rookie of the Week award for his performance on Saturday.
Unlike the Crimson, the Crusaders have not had a hot start to their season. After losing six of its first seven games, Holy Cross has made a quiet rebound, winning its past two games against Albany and Colgate.
“[Today’s game is] a chance to develop against really high quality players and coaches and hopefully we can carry that over into our Patriot League schedule,” Crusaders coach Ted Priestly said.
For Harvard, the keys to victory will be getting on the board quickly and sticking to its traditional style of play.
“If we can capitalize early it will certainly make the game a whole lot easier,” Clark said. “[Allowing your opponent to stay in the game] builds excitement and it builds hope.”