PROVIDENCE, R.I.--After burying Maine on Tuesday and compiling an impressive three-game winning streak, the Harvard men's soccer team fell on Sunday to NCAA tournament hopeful Brown, 2-0.
Battling swirling winds and November cold, the Crimson (5-9-2, 2-4-0 Ivy) were outplayed in the second half as the Bears (11-4-0, 5-2-0 Ivy) gained control of the contest, demonstrating great passing and an excellent transition game.
"They really turned up the pressure on us in the second half," junior captain Ryan Kelly said.
Brown drew first blood in the 46th minute. Brown senior midfielder Anders Kelto, gaining control of a center sent by sophomore teammate Adam Buchanan, chipped the loose ball into the bottom right corner of the goal, untouched despite the traffic in front of the net. The ball skidded just past the extended fingers of Crimson junior goalkeeper Dan Mejias, who took over for sophomore keeper Mike Meagher after the first half.
Brown continued its second-half domination, keeping the ball deep in Harvard territory. The Bears scored again with 5 minutes remaining as Marcio redirected a cross in mid-air into the back of the Crimson net. Marcio, a junior forward from Brazil, is the Ivy goals and points leader.
In isolated incidents, the Crimson mounted some offensive momentum throughout the game, but nothing panned out. Harvard's best scoring opportunity came 8 minutes before halftime, when the Crimson had three consecutive corner kicks, the final one redirected over the crossbar on a header by Harvard freshman Joe Steffa.
Opportunity knocked again with only a minute remaining in the game when senior forward Will Hench fired a laser from outside the penalty box that hit the crossbar.
Although coming up short offensively, the Crimson demonstrated some extraordinary individual efforts, on defense. Freshman midfielder Colin Eyre exhibited excellent defense throughout the game, stopping a dangerous Brown fast break with 6 minutes left and continually battling the powerful Brown three-man forward line.
Also late in the contest, in the 82nd minute, sophomore forward Jon Oslowski made an impressive block of a Brown free kick from midfield.
The Crimson showed quality play in goal throughout the game, despite the keeper change at half. Meagher came out with a minor injury at the break. Mejias and Meagher combined for three saves. With only 3 minutes remaining, Mejias made a tumbling save, denying charging Brown defender Mike Rudy of a scoring opportunity.
The Harvard-Brown men's soccer rivalry is especially fierce. As Nick Lenicheck, sophomore midfielder, noted after the game, "we have a history of tough, intense games with them and we were hoping to end their season."
With the win, Brown's chances of getting a bid to the NCAA tournament improved. Harvard missed a chance to play spoiler to the Bears' season.
"It's been a frustrating season in a number of ways," Lenicheck said, "and beating Brown would have meant a lot."
Sunday's game was characterized by physical play and numerous penalties. Three Brown players received yellow cards. As well, the rowdy Brown home crowd taunted and haggled the Crimson players relentlessly.
"I thought we did really well in the first half and were unlucky not to score," Lenicheck said. "I thought we put more consistent pressure on them."
The Brown loss brings a close to senior forward Armando Petruccelli's six-game point-scoring streak and Lenicheck's two-game point-scoring streak.
"All in all it was a tough loss." Lenicheck said. "We certainly did not play as well as we would have liked, but we also did not get any of the bounces.
Getting the first goal would have been key, but for whatever reason it
just did not happen."
The Crimson will face Ivy doormat Penn on Saturday at Ohiri Field with a chance to end the season on a high note.
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