On a quiet Sunday night at Jordan Field, Harvard men’s soccer struggled to find its bearings against Albany, dropping its second straight game, 3-1. The Great Danes (6-2-0) topped the Crimson (1-4-1) in the first ever meeting between the two schools.
Harvard spent much of the first half on the defensive, attempting only three shots to Albany’s seven. The Great Danes kept the pressure on early, playing fast and pushing the ball into Crimson territory, going into halftime with a two-goal advantage. Harvard was on the offensive more in the second half, netting a consolation goal, but ultimately fell short.
Unable to play in its offensive third, the Crimson struggled to put pressure on Albany’s defense, leaving the door open for the Great Danes to strike.
After a slow opening 20 minutes, Albany snuck through the defense for the first score of the game. The goal gave the Great Danes momentum as they played on Harvard’s side of the field for much of the first half.
The game remained back and forth until a costly foul in the final minute of the half gave Albany a free kick from the right corner. The Great Danes capitalized on the set piece, with a backdoor header giving them a 2-0 lead headed into halftime. The Crimson have made defending the opposition’s set pieces a priority, but on this occasion they faltered.
“I think, moving forward, is just making sure we’re marked up defensively when they have free kicks or corner kicks,” senior defender Justin Crichlow said.
Albany carried its energy into the second half, putting the pressure on early. Harvard senior goalie Kyle Parks saved a laser from the Great Danes in the opening minutes of the half, turning the tide towards the Crimson. Following another Parks save, Harvard started playing more of the game in its offensive third.
After some back and forth play, Albany netted another header in the 63rd minute to give them a 3-0 lead late in the game.
“I felt like every time we started getting some momentum, they would put one in the back of our net,” Crichlow said.
However, freshman midfielder Cornelius Bencsik provided Harvard with a lone bright spot, scoring his first collegiate goal in the 68th minute. On its first shot on goal in the second half, Harvard was able to push a goal past Albany’s tough defense. Senior midfielder Christian Sady set up the goal with a precise ball from the top of the box.
“I was just focused on getting in behind, actually creating something…. I made a sharp movement inside and behind the defense, and [Sady] put an excellent ball,” Bencsik said.
Following the Crimson’s goal, the Great Danes threatened with numbers, but freshman midfielder Sebastian Linder-Liaw single-handedly cut off the odd-man rush. Harvard responded with its own offensive push following its lone score.
On a jump ball, Bencsik crashed into the Albany goalie in a nasty collision, his second of the game. He left the game earlier with an injury following a separate mid-air collision, but returned shortly thereafter with a bandaged forehead.
Despite a few more shots and corner kicks late in the second half, the Crimson was unable to convert on any of its remaining offensive opportunities. The back-and-forth affair between the two teams continued for the rest of the game, but the score remained unchanged.
Harvard continues to stress the importance of playing a full 90 minutes of cohesive soccer.
“We still struggle to fulfill a whole game. The last 30 minutes we created some chances, but we have to be on that level throughout the game,” Bencsik said.
Harvard continues to fine tune its cohesiveness early on in the season, seeing bright spots such as putting pressure on the Great Danes’ defense by getting behind the Albany backs later in the game. Harvard has stressed the importance of getting on the attack and catching the defense off guard.
“We made the adjustment to try to put them on their heels a little bit more,” Crichlow said.
In the end, it was not enough to best the Great Danes.
—Contributing writer Joseph Minatel can be reached at email@example.com
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