It’s hard enough to complete a sprint with a parachute attached to your back. Imagine having to run around with it for 90 minutes.
That’s what the Harvard men’s soccer team (2-9-4, 1-3-2 Ivy League) faced Sunday afternoon in New York, N.Y. after Columbia senior forward Arthur Bosua scored twice in the first five minutes of the game as part of a dazzling four-goal performance that left the Crimson stunned and without a response.
“We just didn’t show up to compete today,” said co-captain and defender Justin Crichlow. “It’s kind of as simple as that. We weren’t marking well enough on crosses. We didn’t mark up on set pieces and that was the main thing we knew we had to focus on. They are a very big team, and we just didn’t perform well tonight. We didn’t execute on our game points.”
The No. 25 Lions (10-2-3, 4-1-1) did not look back as they tacked on four more goals in a convincing 6-0 victory that puts the team in position to scavenge a share of the Ivy League title for the second straight year if Dartmouth loses next weekend.
On homecoming weekend, Bosua left nothing on the table with a career-high four goals, racing out with a strike just 1:21 into the game. A goal less than three minutes later left the South African with a chance to record the fastest hat trick ever in NCAA Division 1 history. Instead, he had to settle for besting his own scoring pace, completing his hat trick just 1:15 into the second half.
“Columbia were efficient,” freshman midfielder Cornelius Bencsik said. “They had some chances, and they scored on the chances they got.”
While Columbia was chasing history, Harvard unsuccessfully chased offensive success. Despite a short streak in the first half where the team managed to string together passes, nothing came to fruition. After recording 21 shots against both Brown and Princeton, the Crimson recorded just two efforts for second game in a row, with none on goal. Hindered by its lack of attacking success, the team is now winless in seven-straight games, the longest such streak since 2012.
Although the Crimson has historically been a perennial title contender, this year’s Ivy League season brought countless frustrations. After a slow non-conference start, Harvard looked to have snapped out of its early season woes with a thrilling comeback win at Yale. But the breakout never occurred.
It might look like Sunday’s result was the Crimson’s long-awaited collapse after a difficult season. The 6-0 shellacking was the team’s worst result since a 2012 loss against then-No. 3/4 Connecticut. Some of the result may have to do with the more open lineup that coach Pieter Lehrer sent out.
Freshman goalkeeper Matt Freese started his second game of the season, and nine substitutes came on in relief. The team is now looking toward the future with seven seniors graduating and depth players looking to fill larger roles. Along the way, there will likely be growing pains, as evidenced by Sunday’s game. But the blows are taken better when they come in relatively meaningless games. The goal is to make a 6-0 loss more productive than a 1-0 loss, although it may not feel that way.
The team has already shown the potency of its youth. Sophomore forward Philip Hausen leads the team with nine points on three goals and three assists. Seven of the nine Crimson players who have recorded points this season are underclassmen. There is certainly great potential going forward.
“I hope that somebody will step up in terms of being a leader, on and off the field,” Crichlow said. “You know, with [co-captain Eric] Gylling and I leaving, somebody is definitely going to need to do that and I hope people will be inspired by me in terms of working hard on the field and pouring everything into the team off the field.”
Large losses often lead to lots of reflection, regret, and disappointment. The five-hour bus ride back from New York City certainly facilitated that process. The only real result from the Columbia contest is a loss in pride. The team can get that back next Saturday in its season finale against Penn.
The seniors will get one last chance to defend their home ground, and the returning members will be playing for the graduating players.
“Obviously, this will be the last time some of the guys on the team play with us, so it can be emotional,” Bencsik said. “I think all the guys are ready to give everything they have…and go out with some pride.”
—Staff writer William Quan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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