The sun only broke through the gray pall over the Business School Field for a moment yesterday afternoon, but to the Harvard men's soccer team it seemed as if the late summer rays shone all day, as the squad ignited after a sluggish first half to trounce a mediocre MIT side, 4-1.
Yesterday's game was the regular season opener for the Crimson, which nipped Haverford 3-1 in the 75th anniversary of the first intercollegiate soccer contest last Wednesday. The win was especially satisfying for the booters, who lost to MIT in their last meeting in 1978. Most of the Crimson veterans played in that 3-1 defeat, and had eagerly looked forward to the opportunity for revenge.
The relative strengths of the two teams became evident in the early minutes of the match, as Harvard, even with an offense that was erratic in the early going, completely dominated play.
Using a 4-4-2 attack, a configuration which accents the traditional Crimson strengths at midfield and on defense, the Crimson booters bottled up play in the middle sections of the field and regularly put heavy pressure on the MIT defenders.
Senior captain Michael Smith opened the scoring at 24:15 in the first half, lofting a penalty shot high into the upper right corner of the twines to give Harvard a 1-0 lead it never relinquished.
Following Smith's goal, the sluggish performance of the Crimson attack began to look unfortunately reminiscent of last season's magical disappearing offense, which was only magical in the sense that it disappeared whenever it advanced to within 20 yards of the opposing goal.
Several botched attempts to either center the ball after a long drive or even to get a shot off after a fast break seemed to indicate lack of finesse in the offensive zone, but Mauro Keller-Sarmiento dispelled at least some of the doubters with a classy goal at 2:58 in the first stanza.
After receiving a pin-point Leo Lenzillo pass just short of the midfield stripe, Keller-Sarmiento streaked sixty yards down the right side of the field, dribbling past half a dozen somewhat bewildered MIT physics majors in the process, and then dumped the ball into the net. The textbook form fast break made the score 2-0.
That relatively plush advantage didn't last for long, as Engineer midfielder Miha Manolui took advantage of some confusion in front of the Harvard goal to make the score 2-1 at 1:03 in the first half. Manolui picked up the loose ball after it bounced off the chest of a Crimson defender, emerged from a crowd of red and white jerseys, and sent a twisting shot past Harvard goalie Pete Walsh into the net to close the gap to one goal.
If in the first half the Crimson eleven appeared lethargic and failed to respond to coach George Ford's off-repeated pleas of "faster, Harvard, faster," in the second half they came out smoking.
Not all that smoke was coming out of Ford's distinguished looking pipe, either. The booters finally lit a metaphorical fire in the MIT defensive zone. Starting with a direct shot on goal only twenty seconds into the half, Harvard applied almost continual pressure on the MIT goal.
The pressure, punctuated by sharp passing and sterling defensive play at midfield, bore fruit with Smith's second goal at 33:57 in the second half. Smith headed the ball perfectly into the lower right corner of the net, capitalizing on a beautiful Peter Sergienko corner kick.
Harvard's fourth and final tally came on another leave-the-crowd-gasping play at 14:20. Midfielder John Duggan passed smoothly to Lance Ayrault, and the rapidly developing sophomore sensation drove the ball past MIT goalie George Kraynak into the lower left-hand corner of the net.
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