In the finale of a lackluster Ivy League season, the Harvard men’s soccer team hosted Ancient Eight foe Penn. Playing under the lights at Soldier’s Field Soccer/Lacrosse Stadium, the Crimson hoped to put on a great performance for its packed stand of fans, who were out in full force on Senior Night. But what transpired was unexpected.
Saturday night’s match featured 24 total fouls, one red card, three yellow cards, one penalty kick, an on-field fight between both teams, two goals in the span of three minutes, a 90th-minute goal, and an overtime winner.
Though the Crimson (2-12-3, 0-6-1 Ivy) ultimately fell to the Quakers (8-7-2, 3-4-0 Ivy), 3-2, in double overtime, the match served as an electric conclusion to an otherwise dull regular season.
“I felt that we had a pretty good game,” freshman midfielder Tim Schmoll said. “We had a pretty strong performance, especially given the fact that we were a man down really early in the match. We knew that Penn was a team that liked to move the ball around a lot, and I think that if we had played them 11-on-11, we could have had a different result. Even though we only had 10 men on the field, we did hold a 1-0 lead for much of the game. I think that the team overall had a strong performance.”
Both teams started strong from the start, battling to dominate possession and having several good looks on goal.
In the 13th minute, the ball was slotted through the Penn back line to senior forward Jamie Rees, who was kept onside by a deep defender on the opposite side of the field. Taking two long touches into the box, Rees found himself in a one-on-one opportunity against the fast approaching Penn keeper, but his shot on goal flew just wide of the right post.
But Harvard’s strong offensive start early in the game was halted by a defensive slip-up. In the 17th minute, Harvard faced a major setback when sophomore Pascal Mensah slide-tackled a Quaker from behind and took out his feet. Mensah’s tackle earned him a red card from the referee and forced the Crimson to play with a man down.
But despite having just 10 men on the field, Harvard continued to place pressure on the Quakers back line. The Crimson’s offensive efforts eventually paid off in the 21st minute, when a Penn defender took down a Crimson forward in the box, gifting Harvard a penalty kick. Junior co-captain Scott Prozeller stepped up to the spot and drilled the ball into the lower right corner of the net to earn the lead.
Despite both teams having opportunities on net, with the Quakers outshooting the Crimson, 8-5, senior goalkeeper Austin Harms recorded four saves to preserve Harvard’s 1-0 lead going into halftime.
The match picked up from where it last left off after the break, with both sides having solid opportunities on goal.
Eight minutes into the second half, Harvard had its best opportunity on goal when sophomore forward Connor McCarthy took a well-placed header to the bottom left corner of goal. But Penn goalkeeper Tyler Kinn’s well-timed dive to the corner robbed McCarthy of his goal and kept the Quakers in the game.
With less than 25 minutes to play in the second, the level of intensity on the field increased, as both sides searched for a late second half goal.
In the 76th minute, tensions on the pitch came to a boiling point as freshman forward Michael Innocenzi and Penn defender Jake Levin jostled for the ball in midfield. While struggling to win the ball from each other, both players went down and immediately sprang up from the ground shoving each other. The referees and linesmen attempted to reassert control and separate the brawling players.
Once the play resumed, Penn’s offense took control of the match and began placing immense pressure on the Crimson back line. In the 80th minute, Penn’s offensive efforts paid off when Penn forward Thomas Brandt, working off a cross into the penalty area, scored off a well-taken header to tie the game at one. Less than two minutes later, Brandt once again headed the ball into the goal off a corner kick, giving Penn the lead, 2-1, and leaving the home crowd stunned.
As the clock ticked down, Harvard searched desperately for a last minute goal. With only 55 seconds remaining in regulation, a hand-ball call on a Penn defender gifted the Crimson a free kick, and sophomore defender Ross Friedman placed the ball in front of the goal for Schmoll to head it past the keeper for the game-tying tally.
In overtime, Penn’s offense took complete control of the match, outshooting Harvard, 5-0. Early in the second overtime, the Quakers’ relentless pressure proved to be too much for the Crimson, as Brandt tipped the ball past Harms off a free kick to earn Penn the overtime victory and the hat trick.
“It was disappointing to lose, but I think we put together a good performance,” Harms said. “I was proud of the way we played, and it was great for the seniors to know everyone was out there working as hard as they did for us. Everyone kept their heads in the game for the full 90 minutes. I think it speaks a lot to our character as a team and how far we’ve come since last year since we were so cohesive as a unit. It was an emotional game for everyone.”
—Staff writer Oluwatoni A. Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Stephanie E. Herwatt can be reached at email@example.com.