In Sunday afternoon’s 2-1 loss to Rhode Island, the Harvard men’s soccer team proved unable to recover from its self-inflected wounds in spite of its hard-pressing offense and numerous scoring opportunities. With the loss, the Crimson drops to 1-2 this season.
After a botched drop-kick clearance by junior goalkeeper Brett Conrad that was intercepted and put away by Rhode Island forward Ross Morison, Harvard found itself in a 1-0 hole midway through the first half.
But rather than allowing the early goal to demoralize the team, the Crimson seized control of the game by maintaining possession of the ball for most of the first half and outshooting its opponents by almost a 3-1 margin by halftime.
Midway through the second half, the Crimson were able to draw level with the Rams, thanks to a goal by junior forward Brian Rogers to the lower left corner of the post.
But the home side’s comeback was short-lived, as another defensive lapse by the Harvard backline gave Rhode Island a free header on goal and ultimately the match.
“Obviously, the first goal was a mistake on our goalkeeper’s part,” Crimson coach Carl Junot said. “In some ways it’s pretty forgivable for me since it was his first minutes [of the season] and it was just nervousness; he didnt kick the ball right. There isn’t anything you can really do with that.”
“The second goal was disappointing in terms of our mentality. The ball came across the goal twice, and in both instances, our left-side defenders just simply let [Rhode Island’s] attacking players run freely and win headers.”
SHOTS, SHOTS, AND MORE SHOTS
Although Sunday’s highly physical game ended in frustration for Harvard, with the Rams just edging out the home side by a goal, the final result does not fully capture the tremendous offensive effort by the Crimson front line. Throughout much of the game, Harvard dictated the pace of play, dominating not only ball possession but also recording a staggering number of shots. For the day, the Crimson outshot the Rams, 20-7, and notched six corner kicks to Rhode Island’s one.
Harvard’s offensive dominance against the Rams was also matched with a improved playing style that not only made use of ball possession and one-two interchanges but also on playing the ball into empty spaces rather than to the feet of an open player.
“Performance-wise, I’m happy to see the improvement in our playing style,” Junot said. “In every single game, we’ve moved the ball pretty well and attack open spaces. That’s distinctly team-style soccer and different from last year for us.”
The overall result was an attractive brand of soccer by the Crimson that was not only effective from a tactical standpoint, but also entertaining.
Despite Harvard’s adept ball movement and numerous shots on goal, it was unable to capitalize on any of its chances.
“We think that our quality in the final third of the field needs to improve,” co-captain Tim Linden said. “Obviously, we are going to need to work on that if we want to put some goals in the net.”
While much talk coming into this latest season for the Harvard men’s soccer team surrounded the sole responsibility that Rogers would have to shoulder as the team’s primary goal scorer and playmaker, no one quite expected the emergence of an additional playmaker for the Crimson.
Freshman Hiroki Kobayashi emerged as a playmaker for the Crimson by delivering dangerous crosses into the penalty box from his position on the right flank of the Harvard front line. Though against Rhode Island Rogers still remained the engine of the Harvard offense, totaling seven shots and scoring the home side’s only goal, Kobayashi was efficient on the right wing.
“The reason why we played [Kobayashi] wide was because he can serve a really good ball crossing-wise,” Junot said. “He did that well this game and probably created three goal scoring opportunities for us with his service.”
—Staff writer Oluwatoni A. Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.