The tale of the Harvard men’s soccer season seems to be one of missed opportunities.
On a windy Saturday afternoon, No. 18 Cornell (10-0-0, 2-0-0 Ivy) came into Soldiers Field Soccer/Lacrosse Stadium and extended its winning streak to 10 games as it defeated the Crimson (1-6-3, 0-1-1 Ivy), 3-1.
Harvard had most of the momentum on offense in the first half, recording eight shots to Cornell’s two. But the Crimson only capitalized on one of its chances and went into halftime knotted at one.
“That’s been the story of the season,” co-captain Scott Prozeller said. “We’ve been in games and we’ve had chances, [but] we haven’t finished them, and then we find ways to give up goals.”
The Big Red jumped out to an early lead, but the Crimson struck back to tie the score at one before the break. In the 43rd minute, junior defender Ross Friedman launched a long ball to freshman forward Jake Freeman, who collected it out of the air and took a touch towards the six-yard line.
Big Red goalkeeper Rick Pflasterer came up with a diving save, but the keeper was unable to corral the ball, and freshman forward Oliver White buried the rebound into the back of the net to score Harvard’s lone goal for the contest. The tally was White’s second of the season and the Crimson’s first Ivy League score.
“We knew they were coming in undefeated, definitely with a ton of confidence, but we thought they really hadn’t been tested at all,” Prozeller said. “I thought we dominated the first half and did really good, so it was just an unfortunate result.”
The momentum shifted away from the Crimson after halftime, as the Big Red outshot Harvard, 9-5, in the second half following tactical changes.
“Their tactics definitely changed [after the half],” Prozeller said. “They have a lot of team speed, and maybe we’re a little slower across the back, a bit more tactical. They put balls in behind us and squeezed us. We definitely struggled with that at times.”
Cornell took back the lead 63 minutes into the match when sophomore midfielder Conor Goepel sent a lofted pass across the box over freshman goaltender Joe Festa. Big Red defender Patrick Slogic then headed the ball from the far post into the net to put Cornell ahead for the rest of the contest.
The Big Red’s third tally came with 15 minutes left in the game off of a Crimson turnover to seal the victory for Cornell. Big Red forward Tyler Regan found Goepel open in the box, who then slotted the ball past Festa for the final goal of the contest.
In the first six minutes of the game, Harvard had three chances to take the lead, but failed to score on each attempt.
Senior forward Zack Wolfenzon dribbled the ball down the line and fired a shot from the right side of the field, but Pflasterer was there to push the ball to the side. Junior forward Connor McCarthy grabbed the rebound off the block and drove the ball towards the net, but a Cornell defender cleared his attempt to give the Crimson a corner kick.
Off the corner, junior midfielder Kyle Henderson sent the ball into the box. Prozeller unleashed a header at the goal, but Big Red defender Peter Chodas blocked his shot.
Less than four minutes later, Cornell forward Stephen Reisert gave the Big Red the first goal of the game, firing the ball into the right side of the net off of a through pass from Cornell forward Nico Nissl that had split the Harvard defense.
Despite the bounty of shots created early on in the game, Harvard coach Carl Junot still thinks that the Crimson offense has room to improve.
“You try to create opportunities, and you try to finish opportunities,” Junot said. “The more opportunities you create, the more chances you have to score. I thought we could have been better at producing more offense.”
Harvard pressured the Big Red throughout the first half, but had to open up its defense as it went on the offensive in the second half following Cornell’s late goals. The Crimson held Big Red forward Daniel Haber, who leads the nation in points per game, scoreless for just the second time all season, but couldn’t maintain its defensive showing throughout the match.