All season long, the Harvard men’s soccer team found ways to win games. Yesterday on Ohiri Field, it found ways to lose one.
Despite outplaying defending national champions Maryland for large portions of the 90 minutes, the 10th-seeded Crimson gave up a goal in each half—both against the run of play—and missed a penalty on its way to a third-round exit from the NCAA Tournament.
The 2-0 loss was a disappointing end to a season in which Harvard (14-4-1) exceeded expectations and won the Ivy League title.
“We don’t often get shut out in games,” Crimson coach Jamie Clark said. “[Maryland] played effectively, they played well, they put numbers where it mattered, and they were opportunistic.”
The Terrapins (15-5-2) came into the contest having won four of their last five games but were put on the back foot immediately.
With the wind behind them in the first half, the Harvard players looked to take advantage of the weather and pushed hard for an early goal.
Maryland keeper Zac MacMath was called to action in the third minute, easily bringing in co-captain Andre Akpan’s header.
Five minutes later, senior Desmond Mitchell nearly latched onto a cross from classmate Adam Rousmaniere, but the pass skidded inches in front of Mitchell’s outstretched leg.
An early goal came, but it was Maryland that grabbed the opener. On the Terrapins’ first attack of the match, Taylor Kemp squeezed past Mitchell and junior defender Robert Millock. Kemp found teammate Casey Townsend, who was sitting unmarked by the penalty spot after striker Jason Herrick made a run to the near post that drew the attention of the Crimson defenders. Townsend shot with his left foot, but the ball ricocheted off his right foot before getting caught in the wind and looping over sophomore keeper Austin Harms.
After the goal, Harvard continued to dominate the first half but struggled to create chances.
In the 34th minute, freshman Scott Prozeller sent a through ball in behind the Terrapins’ back line into the right side of the box. Akpan was able to get there before MacMath, who could do nothing but bring down the Crimson’s star striker.
Harvard, it seemed, had its lifeline.
Up stepped Akpan with a chance to break the Crimson’s all-time scoring record, and more importantly, pull Harvard level.
But while the Crimson had its best player taking the penalty, Maryland had its best player trying to stop it. MacMath, who led the nation in goals-against-average in 2008 as a freshman and has played for the U.S. National Team at various youth levels, was recently named First Team All-ACC.
Akpan stutter-stepped on his run-up to throw off MacMath but struck his penalty weakly to the right. The rebound came back to Akpan off MacMath’s knee, but the ball took a high bounce, and Akpan was unable to get his foot over it, sending his attempt high into the air, and eventually, into the arms of MacMath.