For the first time in over a year the Harvard soccer team won a game the odds-makers expected them to lose, toppling New England's top eleven, the University of Rhode Island, 2-1, yesterday on the Business School field.
At the end of the first half the scene seemed reminiscent of Harvard's frustrating last season and a third. The Crimson jumped out in front, 1-0, but then Rhode Island roared back to tie the game. For once, however, Harvard's hopes did not end with a close loss as the Crimson re-grouped, nudged in front, 2-1, and preserved the lead throughout a superb second half of soccer.
Rhode Island controlled the play early in the first half, although they launched few good shots. The Crimson, in fact, had the best early chance as Mauro Keller-Sarmiento trapped a feed from the side and boomed a hard, turn-around shot from the right corner of the penalty box that ricocheted off the top of the near upright.
Only one minute later at 16:38, Keller-Sarmiento netted the ball on a similar shot. He trapped a pass from Mike Mogollan, and banged a turn-around right-footer that sizzled past the out-stretched hands of the URI goalie into the far side of the net.
For the rest of the first stanza Rhode Island controlled midfield and kept Harvard hemmed into their own half. Taking advantage of Harvard goalie Billy Blood's short drop kicks and the belowpar play of Crimson mid-fielders Michael Smith and Andy Kronfeld, Rhode Island mounted several attacks. Only Blood's acrobatics in the net kept the visitors off the scoreboard. Blood raced repeatedly out of the goalmouth to smother dangerous crosses and soft shots. At 41:15 he made a miraculous save with a full length dive to block a low shot a yard off the foot of a URI forward. Moments later, Blood thwarted URI again leaping into mid-air to tip a soft free-kick wide.
URI pressure finally produced a goal at 42:41 of the half as Rhode Island fullback Manuel Mercurio drilled a low shot into the near corner from the left side of the goal. A minute later Jose Rico smashed a 35-yard shot off the top of the crossbar and the future looked dim for Harvard.
Harvard surprised the small crowd in the second half, however, playing more aggressively, controlling at least half the play and edging out in front for good after seven minutes of the half. Michael Smith tapped a free kick to John Duggan who rammed the ball off a confused URI defense and into the left corner of the net.
Harvard did not go into a defensive shell after taking the lead. The Crimson continued to create opportunities up front. Keller-Sarmiento and Mogollon passed and dribbled particularly well, while Blood rejected several URI scoring bids.
With ten minutes left, Blood dove to his right to stop a hard header from Jose Rico. With that stop he preserved a win he and his team both deserved and needed.
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