The Harvard men’s soccer team’s comeback attempt fell just short on Sunday afternoon, as the Crimson lost, 3-2, in double-overtime to Southern Methodist University at Soldiers Field Soccer/Lacrosse Stadium.
The Crimson (1-2-1) entered the second half down two goals but battled back to tie the game with ten minutes remaining. But Harvard was unable to put away a game-winner, and the Mustangs (2-2-1) capitalized in the 105th minute to secure the win.
"I thought we showed a lot of character and pride...so we’ve got to take positives from this for sure," Harvard coach Carl Junot said.
Sunday’s matchup was the Crimson’s first against SMU—or a member of Conference USA—in program history.
The Mustangs, who were ranked in the top 25 earlier this season, visited Cambridge coming off a 2-1 defeat of Dartmouth in Hanover on Friday.
"We’ve seen them play a lot, [and] they have a definitive style of play," Junot said. "They are a really possession-based, technical team, so we had a game plan going into it.… We tried to sit a little deeper to absorb that pressure and then counterattack with our strength and speed."
The Crimson found success with the approach early in the match, dominating possession and outshooting the Mustangs, 6-0, in the first 18 minutes. But SMU found the net on its first shot of the contest.
In the 19th minute, forward Ben Hill collected a pass in the center of the box, faked out Harvard keeper Joe Festa, and slotted the ball into the left corner of the net to put the Mustangs on the board.
With just six seconds remaining in the half, SMU doubled its lead after Jacob Gandarilla tapped in a rebound off a Festa block.
"I think people were pretty frustrated [at the half]," said co-captain Scott Prozeller, whose squad went into the break with an 11-6 edge in shots. "We were down, 2-0, but I think people also realized we had been playing well and that we could definitely compete with this team."
The Harvard offense was rewarded about fifteen minutes into the second-half when Prozeller headed in a free kick that sophomore defender David Barna curved into the box from the right side of the field.
Twenty minutes later, the Crimson scored the equalizer on another set piece. After an SMU defender cleared Barna’s corner kick to the top of the box, freshman midfielder Oliver White was there to fire the ball back into the top of the net for his first collegiate goal.
With the match tied, both teams increased their intensity, but both offenses came up empty handed, forcing a pair of golden-goal, ten-minute overtime periods.
In the first overtime, the Mustangs had a chance to finish the game when the referee called an incidental handball in the box and awarded SMU a penalty kick with about a minute left. But Mustang sophomore Tyler Engel shot the ball into the upper crossbar, missing his opportunity to end the match.
With just five minutes remaining, Engel redeemed himself by netting the game-winner for the Mustangs. He received a back-heel pass from a teammate in the box and capitalized on a one-on-one with the keeper to send Harvard home empty-handed.
The Crimson created many offensive opportunities, outshooting SMU, 21-14, and topping its opponent in corner kicks, 11-5, but came short of completing its comeback. Festa recorded seven saves in his first career start in goal.
"We dug ourselves into a hole in the first half," Prozeller said, "[but] I thought we did well. We challenged well, came out in the second half, and came back. I thought we had the run of play and gave up a pretty soft goal, but they were a good team."
"We have to score more goals than we concede, obviously, but I thought we created enough offense to have won the game," Junot said. "I thought we had the better of a lot of the game, but that’s not soccer. Wins and losses come off of individual play, and they had some good stuff."
—Staff writer Stephanie E. Herwatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.