This weekend, the Harvard men’s soccer team got a taste of both the excitement and the pain that can come from the ball being blasted into the back of the net as the clock dwindles down.
On Friday night, the Crimson (2-3-0) defeated University of Massachusetts (1-5-0), 1-0, on a penalty kick in overtime before falling to Vermont (5-1-0) by the same score in Sunday afternoon’s match.
As Harvard’s season progresses, it will need to maintain its offensive threat and defensive strength throughout the entire 90 minutes and to successfully convert its chances in front of the net.
But with some strong freshman additions to its solid returning roster, the Crimson should have the players on the field it needs to earn positive results.
TWO SIDES OF THE COIN
Harvard’s results this weekend demonstrated the importance of mental toughness and playing strong throughout all 90 minutes of the game and more.
The Crimson started off the weekend on a high note against the Minutemen, minimizing defensive errors and keeping UMass out of its net throughout both regulation and overtime. Harvard ultimately emerged as the victor, with freshman forward Michael Innocenzi drawing a foul in the box less than four minutes into the first overtime period and junior co-captain Scott Prozeller calmly converting the penalty kick for the win.
“What I’m really happy with … is that we didn’t concede a goal,” Crimson coach Carl Junot said. “A lot of times what happens in games like that where you are the aggressor, you can overextend yourself offensively and open yourself up to counterattacks, and you can take really disappointing losses like that … Overall, it’s a huge mental step for our group to lock them out of our net for an entire game and throughout overtime.”
But it was a mental step that wouldn’t last throughout the weekend.
Although both teams had good chances, it was the Catamounts that gained the upper hand in Sunday’s match against Harvard. The Vermont defense held strong against the Crimson’s offensive pressure, and with only five minutes remaining in regulation, Catamount senior Yannick Lewis headed in a long throw from his teammate for the game-winning tally.
“We were putting up a really great defensive effort up until five minutes left when we had one mental slip-up that cost us the game,” junior forward Brian Rogers said.
Four of Harvard’s five games this season have been decided on goals scored in the final 13 minutes of the contest, showing that one defensive breakdown can cost a match for any team and highlighting the importance of maintaining your offensive and defensive strength throughout the entire period.
NOT ENOUGH FIREPOWER
With its one goal of the weekend coming from a penalty kick by Prozeller in overtime against the Minutemen, its time for the Crimson’s offense to start finding the back of the net.
But it’s not for a lack of trying.