Men's Soccer's Ivy League Play Kicks Off with Trip to New Haven

Kick It Away Now
Sophomore Taner Dogan (8), pictured here in action earlier this season, fights for the ball at midfield.

The Harvard men’s soccer team aims to open its 2017 Ivy League schedule with a win, as it travels to New Haven on Saturday to take on Yale. As history shows, the game could potentially be a high-scoring affair, as the last two matchups between the schools have produced a total of 10 goals between them.

The past, however, may not be comparable to today.

The Crimson (1-5-1) has had a slow start to its season, as it has only scored three times all season and is currently in the midst of a 3-game losing skid. Similarly, the beginning of the season hasn't been kind to Yale, as the Bulldogs sit at 3-4 and have struggled to score, having only scored six goals over seven games.

This all adds up to the fact that both teams will be looking for a much-needed win to start this season’s Ivy League schedule.

Harvard’s last run out was on Tuesday, when they faced off against Vermont at home. Despite keeping a clean sheet for the first half, the Crimson couldn’t keep the Catamounts out forever, conceding two second half goals and eventually falling 2-0.

On Saturday, Harvard will be looking to increase its production up top. Despite its lackluster attacking record so far, the Crimson is looking to put its past behind it, and the team is making some changes on and off of the field in hopes of doing just that.

In addition, the team has been doing its homework ahead of the soccer edition of The Game.

“We’ve been reviewing what Yale does well and what they don’t do well,” senior midfielder Christian Sady said. “We’re definitely continuing to work on our attacking, we’ve struggled a little to score goals, but we’re not discouraged by that. I don’t think our last few results are indicative of where we’re at. We’re confident going into this game.”

Getting the first win against an Ivy League opponent isn’t the only thing on the line on Saturday, as both teams take lots of pride in their yearly matchup. The rivalry dates back to 1853, when the boat clubs of the two schools faced off in a race for the first time.

This was not only the first time the two schools competed against one another, but it was also the first time two American schools competed against one another in athletics altogether. Thus, there is over a century and a half of history behind the feelings heading into this game.

In order to get the team into a practical mindset, however, senior defender and co-captain Eric Gylling is treating it as just another day at the office.

“We always try to approach it as if it were any other game,” Gylling said. “The guys always feel a little bit of tension, it’s the start of Ivy League play, and so the stakes sort of go up a little bit, but we approach it the same way we approach anything.”

The Crimson has had lots of success when facing Yale in the past few years, as the last time the Bulldogs defeated Harvard was in 2013, when the latter fell 2-1 in a close game in New Haven.

Saturday’s game will be the 104th meeting between the two storied institutions, with the Crimson having the edge in the series, 53-38-12.

Last year’s matchup ended in a thrilling 3-3 tie after double overtime, with the Crimson coming back from a 2-0 deficit by scoring 3 unanswered goals, only to concede a heartbreaking goal in the last 4 minutes of regulation. Neither side was able to break the deadlock in overtime, and thus the teams had to share the points on the day.

Two years ago, Harvard won 3-1, so spectators can expect a wide-open goal fest if the past two years are anything to go by.

The Crimson will need its top goal scorers, freshman midfielder/forward Paolo Belloni-Urso and sophomore forward Philip Hausen, along with Sady, freshman midfielder Cornelius Bencsik and others, to find the offensive rhythm that has thus far eluded them and start producing tallies on the scoreboard.

On the other side of the field, the defense, led by senior goalie Kyle Parks, and co-captains Gylling and Justin Crichlow, will be looking to shut down a Bulldog offense led by Kyle Kenagy and John Leisman, especially on set pieces. Their job might be made slightly easier by the fact that only four Yale players have recorded a goal this season.

After previous years’ success in the League, all eyes will be on the Crimson as it hopes to turn its season around.

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