Under normal circumstances, this would be a nothing game, a contest for supremacy between the two bottom teams in the Ivy League soccer ranks. But today's soccer game pits Harvard against Yale and as forward Walter Diaz says, "This game is so important, it's like making a whole season."
For Diaz, Harvard's leading scorer with five goals, this game is also a family reunion of sorts. Not long into the game Diaz is likely to make a break for the net, where he will be picked up by Yale's freshman sweeper back, Michael Diaz, his brother. On the sideline, a third Diaz brother, who is applying to Harvard and Yale for next year, will be watching.
Diaz to Diaz
The three brothers all played together for the Half Hollow Hills High soccer team in Dix Hills, Long Island. And the summer before Walter's freshman year, the threesome toured together with a team visiting Germany. Walter was a center forward, Michael played center half, and Tony, the youngest Diaz, took right wing in the family combo, so there must have been a few Diaz to Diaz to Diaz combinations.
But today the two elder Diazes oppose each other in seriousness for the first time. "It's going to be fun, that's the main thing," Walter said yesterday. "He'll have a better feel for what I'm going to do, but that could also work to my advantage," he explained since he can change what he normally does.
Walter added that even though his brother is the sweeper--the last man back--it is "a safe assumption" that he will have to cover Walter much of the time.
Today's game promises to be exciting with or without the personal Diaz rivalry. Both Harvard and Yale have looked very strong in their last two outings and are looking to finish off the season in winning form.
Harvard, now 4-9-1, played Brown even for 87 minutes of their 90-minute tilt two weekends ago, and last Friday night Harvard busted out of its scoring doldrums with a 3-0 blanking of Penn. Coach George Ford is likely to continue with a three-man front line led by Diaz and Mauro Keller-Sarmiento and to start Lee Nelson at midfield once again.
Until two weekends ago, the Eli booters had not scored in Ivy competition, let alone won any games. But then they shut out Cornell, 2-0, as did Harvard, and then tied with Princeton, 1-1. Yale, though not as skilled as the Crimson, relied on speed and aggressiveness to neutralize Princeton, which beat Harvard, 2-0. (Yale's starting goalie was injured in the Princeton game so the Elis will probably start a freshman in the nets today).
Yale's speed will test the Crimson defense. If the backs can hold tough in the early going, the offense will hopefully pick up where it left off last week.
Captain Jim Langton, the anchor of the Crimson defense, said last night that the team "has a good feeling." For Langton, today's game is the last of a two-year varsity career and he approaches it with "a mixed feeling."
"It's too bad it's the last game for me but for the other guys, they are going to be unbeatable next year," Langton said. "Tomorrow's game is just a stepping stone."