It was a long drive back from Ithaca for the Harvard men’s soccer team Saturday night.
Although the Crimson (2-7-1, 0-2-0 Ivy) entered the second half with the 1-0 advantage over Cornell (6-1-3, 2-0-0), the Big Red needed only 15 minutes to notch three consecutive goals, taking back the lead to come away with a 3-1 victory.
“The result was a little bit disappointing,” co-captain Tim Linden said. “We performed well for parts of the game and really underperformed for parts of the game. We can’t fault anybody for effort, but it comes down to being sharp mentally and physically and taking care of the job, which we weren’t able to do for 90 minutes.”
Cornell came out strong, getting several early shots off, but Harvard settled down to post a strong first-half performance. The Crimson shut down the Big Red offense and tested Cornell in its defensive third. In the first 20 minutes, Big Red junior goalkeeper Rick Pflasterer kept the visitors out of the net with two saves, stopping a long free kick by sophomore defender Eric Slingerland and a header attempt by junior forward Brian Rogers. Defenders junior Richard Smith and Linden then followed up with two promising looks on goal, but both shots flew wide.
Harvard’s offense capitalized on its offensive momentum after 32 minutes of play. Sophomore defender Ross Friedman curled a free kick from outside the penalty box onto the six-yard line, where sophomore defender Oblajulu Agha finished the opportunity to put the Crimson on the scoreboard.
Cornell recorded two more shots on goal before the end of the half, but senior goalkeeper Austin Harms stopped both to maintain Harvard’s lead.
“We entered into half time with a lot of confidence,” Crimson coach Carl Junot said. “We thought we had done well and had executed our game plan.”
But after the first 15 minutes of the second half, the memory of such performance had disappeared. The Big Red targeted the center of the Harvard defense, capitalizing on breakdowns to put the ball away.
Cornell’s first goal came off a breakaway less than three minutes into the period, when senior midfielder Jimmy Lannon found sophomore forward Daniel Haber streaking down the left side, who then slotted the ball into the right corner of the goal past Harms.
Less than three minutes later, Haber sent a long volley down the right side to senior forward Chase Aaronson, who chipped the ball over Harms from 30 yards out to reclaim the lead for the Big Red. Another Cornell goal quickly followed, when a passing play between junior forward Tyler Regan and freshman midfielder Conor Goepel beat the Crimson defense, giving Goepel time to place the ball into the back of the net.
“People were a little bit shocked [when the Big Red scored the equalizer] just because for much of the game, we had the better run of it up until that point,” Linden said. “We definitely knew we were still in it, but it seemed to fall apart a few minutes after that. I think guys were looking around for answers and really weren’t able to find anything.”
Harvard outshot the Big Red, 6-5, in the second period, but despite its best efforts, the Crimson was unable to finish, and the deficit became too large to overcome. With the victory, Cornell extended its unbeaten streak to nine games and sent Harvard back to Cambridge with its second Ivy loss.
“It is harder to attack the other team’s goal when you have defensive liabilities,” Junot said. “You commit more to defending at that point, and it’s harder to advance your team up the field. I think that accounted for a lot of us not attacking in the second half, because we were a little bit less secure with out defending.
“[Going forward,] I’m of the opinion that if we shore up our defense, we will actually become a better attacking team. There are less liabilities in the back, and you can commit more chances in the attack.”
The Big Red outshot the Crimson, 13-11, for the game, with 7-3 on net, while Harvard led in corner kicks, 4-2. Harms recorded four saves for the match.
“If I look at the game as a whole, it was probably 75 minutes of a decent performance from our team,” Junot said. “There were just those 15 minutes where, for whatever reason, we couldn’t figure out the center of our defense. Credit [goes to] Cornell, who was very good with [targeting] it.”
—Staff writer Stephanie E. Herwatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.