On a rainy Tuesday night at Soldiers Field Soccer/Lacrosse Stadium, the Harvard men’s soccer team jumped out to an early lead on a well-placed header by Crimson sophomore forward Hiroki Kobayashi. But Boston College answered with a powerful strike from senior Kevin Mejia later in the first half.
Harvard (1-5-3, 0-0-1 Ivy) found itself up a goal before the second minute of play had even ended, but the Crimson was unable to convert later opportunities and was forced to settle for a 1-1 tie against the Eagles (5-3-2, 1-1-1 ACC).
Both teams were unable to score in the remainder of regulation and the two overtime periods, despite a number of chances for both sides. After Kobayashi’s goal, the Crimson had two additional scoring opportunities in the opening minutes but was unable to convert on a header off a lofty cross and a hard volley.
“On the whole, the game was probably a fair result in a tie,” Harvard coach Carl Junot said. “But I thought we had three opportunities in the first fifteen minutes to be up 3-0, where we should have—not just could have—had three goals.”
The Crimson dominated the opening minutes of the game, threading crisp passes through the BC defense that put the Eagles on their heels. Junior defender Ross Friedman sent a hard cross into the box from near the goal line that Kobayashi, soaring over a BC defender, finished beautifully to net his second goal of the season.
But after the early tally, the Crimson could not put anything in the net, despite a number of looks close to the goal throughout the game.
“We need to work on finishing goals,” Kobayashi said. “I think each individual knows what they need to accomplish to get better.”
Excitement arose in the opening minutes of overtime, as senior defender Richard Smith followed the ball into the Eagles’ penalty box when he was taken down by a BC defender. To the dismay of the Crimson bench, the referee issued no call.
If the referee had blown the whistle, Harvard would have been awarded a penalty kick that could have potentially ended the game.
“Obviously I thought it should have been a penalty; I think a lot of people did,” Junot said. “It’s rare that the ref will make a call like that late in the game. I thought he should have. I thought he missed the call, but you know in any game we say you’ve got to be better than the other team, and you’ve got to be better than the referee.”
“We had our opportunities to be up 3-1, so the message is if we had scored all our goals like we should’ve early in the game, it wouldn’t have mattered,” Junot added.
Boston College had its own chances to take the lead throughout the game. In two similar situations, the Eagles intercepted passes between Harvard defenders around the goal that led to shots, one of which came late in the game and caromed off the crossbar.
But for the majority of the game, the Crimson defense constantly pressured the Eagles and forced turnovers that enabled Harvard to maintain possession.
Junot attributed this defensive success in part to the increasing number of minutes Harvard midfielders and defenders have been playing together.
“Defensively we were good, not perfect, but I think the ability to get some continuity with our back line is important,” Junot said. “We’re finally back to full health with our field players, so we have a healthy rotation of players throughout the game that are able to come in at different times.”
The Eagles finished with a total of 12 shots, while the Crimson tallied nine. Freshman goalie Joe Festa put together his second solid game in a row after shutting out Yale on Saturday.
Boston College makes up just part of Harvard’s competitive nonconference schedule, as the team has already faced a number of top programs including Michigan State and Connecticut. The team hopes that growing accustomed to tough competition will pay off during conference play, especially since the top teams in the Ivy League are among the country’s best.
“Having one of the toughest schedules in the nation has a good side, which is that we’re ready to play any team, including the Ivy schools,” Kobayashi said.
The Crimson faces Cornell in its second Ivy League game of the season this Saturday at home.