Harvard never had a shot, literally and figuratively, as the Crimson men’s soccer team fell at home to UConn, 6-0, on Friday.
Harvard was unable to register a shot on goal as the Huskies dominated every facet of the game from start to finish.
“It was just the perfect storm out there,” Crimson coach Carl Junot said. “We were that bad, and they were that good.”
Leading the way for the No. 4/3 Huskies (5-0-1) was junior forward Mamadou Doudou Diouf. Diouf routinely blew past the helpless Harvard (1-3-1) defenders on penetrating runs, registering two goals, an assist, and a free kick that resulted in another goal.
Diouf got the scoring started just four and a half minutes into regulation off a thwarted Crimson attack and a strong counter by the opportunistic UConn midfield. Midfielder Carlos Alvarez delivered a perfect ball through the air that Diouf calmly collected with his chest at the top of the box. The junior then fired a shot into the lower left corner past a diving Evan Mendez, the Crimson’s freshman goalkeeper, and into the back of the net.
Harvard tried to respond and had an opportunity just three minutes later. Junior Ross Friedman, who made his season debut on Friday, launched a throw-in from the right side of the field all the way across the net. Huskies goalie Michael Mercado misjudged his jump, and the ball trickled out in front of an open goal.
But a UConn defender got to it before the Crimson could and cleared his line. That was the closest Harvard came to scoring all afternoon.
At the 10:53 mark, Diouf was at it again, this time capitalizing on a defensive error by Friedman. Diouf stole the ball at the top of the box and once again beat Mendez, doubling UConn’s lead.
“From the start, we didn’t come out well, giving up those two easy goals,” co-captain Scott Prozeller said. “From there, we kind of lost our handle on the game. We had to press them a little bit, and that played right into their strategy.”
UConn’s Stephane Diop got in on the action in the 23rd minute. After a set-piece broke down, Diop found himself with the ball at the left corner of the 18-yard box and almost the entire Harvard defense between him and the net. Diop calmly collected himself and curled a beautiful shot around the defense and into the top opposite corner.
“I feel like we kind of spotted them those three goals in the first half,” Junot said. “I thought we could come out in the second half and respond, but that obviously didn’t happen.”
The rest of the first half was of little consequence as the Crimson hunkered down on defense, allowing the Huskies to control possession without many opportunities on goal.
That all changed when the teams came out for the second period. It took all of 24 seconds for UConn to find the back of the net.
Just three passes after he started things off with the kickoff, Alvarez was breaking down the middle as the Harvard defense struggled to catch up to him. Returning the favor, Diouf delivered a pin-point through ball that Alvarez buried in the back of the net to put the game well out of reach at 4-0.
“I think it’s certainly a humbling moment,” Prozeller said. “We’re gonna take what we can from this and move forward.”