Two goals, two leads, but ultimately, another loss.
Such was the case for the Harvard men’s soccer team, which fell, 3-2, against Princeton on Saturday afternoon at Ohiri Field. The Tigers’ second-half comeback earned Princeton (4-8-1, 1-3 Ivy) its first Ivy win of the season and relegated the Crimson (2-10-1, 0-4) to the lone spot at the bottom of the league.
“Overall, the result was disappointing,” Harvard coach Carl Junot said. “We would have liked to have had a complete performance from our team. It was a game that we let get away from us. I saw some sparks though ... We’ve established who some of our strongest attacking threats are, so there are some positives to draw from the result.”
The Crimson started off the first half strong, capitalizing on its offensive momentum to put its first tally on the scoreboard nearly seventeen minutes into the game. Sophomore defender Eric Slingerland sent a long pass into the box from the left side of the midfield, with the ball bouncing over the defense.
Sophomore forward Obiajulu Agha ran onto the cross, jumping and heading the ball over the outstretched hands of the advancing Tigers goalie for the first score of the match.
But Princeton would respond just over three minutes later, when freshman midfielder Julian Griggs beat the Harvard defense down the center of the field, dribbling into the box and forcing a one-on-one with senior goalkeeper Austin Harms before placing the ball into the left side of the net.
“It is always good to score first,” Junot said. “I would like to say it’s unfortunate, but I think it is more disappointing that we gave up a goal so soon after we scored. Credit to Princeton on that goal. It was just a foot race between our defender and their forward, and they scored a good goal to draw even.”
In the 32nd minute, the Crimson earned its second lead of the game when senior midfielder Jamie Rees slotted the ball between the Tigers’ center and left defenders into the right side of Princeton’s box.
Freshman forward Michael Innocenzi made a through run behind the defense onto the ball, placing a hard one-time shot on the ground inside the left post to score the first goal of his collegiate career and put Harvard back up.
“I was pretty thrilled with getting a second goal so quickly since we haven’t scored too many goals this year,” Junot said. “I was really happy with our attacking play in the first half. Michael Innocenzi has been one of the attacking sparks for our team this season, so for him to get a goal was fantastic.”
But once again, the Tigers were quick to respond, scoring six minutes later. Freshman forward Cameron Porter stole the ball from the Crimson’s back line in its defensive third, dribbling to the end-line and sending a cross in front of the goal from the right side of the box. Griggs batted the ball in from in front of the net, notching his second score for the match to tie the game up before the half.
With both teams fighting to break the tie in the second period, Princeton converted the ball with twenty minutes remaining to take its first lead of the game.
Freshman defender Myles McGinley split the Harvard defense with a through pass onto Porter, who then slotted the ball past Harms near post from a tough angle on the right side.
The Crimson offense placed two more hard shots on frame in the remaining time, but the Tigers’ sophomore keeper Seth MacMillan stopped both to preserve Princeton’s lead and prevent a Harvard comeback.
“After being scored on twice in a game, a team often figures out how it should defend the opponent’s offense,” Junot said. “Princeton adapted and hunkered down in the defense, and early in the second half, it was able to keep us at bay in terms of our attacking play. Once they got the goal, we really had to push. We made some strong efforts in the second half, but overall it was a disappointing result.”
Princeton out-shot Harvard, 14-3, for the game, while Harvard bested the Tigers, 4-3, in corners. Harms recorded six saves for the match.
“It was a disappointing game and had its ups and downs,” co-captain Tim Linden said. “We had two goals, which was the first time to happen this season, and we also had two leads, which is also something that hasn’t happened this season. But we let them slip away, which is something that has continued to happen this season, so we are going to have to keep learning from things like this.”
—Staff writer Stephanie E. Herwatt can be reached at email@example.com.