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The Harvard men’s soccer team’s two leading goal scorers came through again on Saturday, as senior midfielder Kevin Ara and freshman forward Matt Hoff provided the goals in a 2-0 win over Princeton.
The new-look Crimson (6-4-3, 1-2-1 Ivy) relentlessly pressured the Tigers (4-5-2, 1-2-1) during the first 10 minutes by throwing its unfamiliar configuration at its opponents.
Instead of going with Hoff and sophomore Brian Charnock as the starting forwards, Harvard coach John Kerr turned to freshman Charles Altchek and sophomore Anthony Tornaritis to spark an offense that had been shut out by Brown the previous week.
“We just wanted to change up the lineup,” Kerr said. “We have a lot of depth.”
Six minutes into the game, Altchek had a golden opportunity to score his second goal of the year, but his shot was cleared off the line by a Princeton defender.
A mere four minutes later, Ara saw another opportunity and shouted for sophomore back Will Craig to give him the ball.
“I noticed the two guys on me were ball-watching,” Ara said. “I got away.”
Craig lofted a ball over the Tiger defender to the streaking Ara, who calmly controlled the ball and dribbled it toward the goalie before poking it past him into the far corner of the net for his fourth goal of the year.
The attacking style was exactly what Harvard had planned before the game.
“We were playing direct,” said Kerr. “I wanted to catch them off guard, and I think we did that.”
Kerr continued on to say that scouting reports had indicated a lack of speed in Princeton’s center backs and he had hoped to get the starting forwards and midfielders behind them.
Though Harvard continued to apply pressure and saw two Ara headers bang off the crossbar, the Crimson didn’t score again until the 67th minute.
Harvard earned a free kick just outside the penalty area and Charnock played it into the middle of the box, where it was cleared out by Princeton. But sophomore midfielder Nicholas Tornaritis retrieved possession and sent a weak ball into the middle of the box, where Hoff—fresh off the bench—waited.
With little room to maneuver, Hoff took the ball, quickly turned and put his team-leading sixth goal of the season between a Tiger defender and the post.
Throughout the game, the Crimson’s defense held tight against the counterattacks Princeton tried to mount.
The best scoring opportunity for the Tigers came with just under two minutes remaining in the first half. After a Crimson foul, Princeton was awarded a free kick a few yards outside the penalty box. The Tigers tried to catch Harvard off-guard by lofting the ball into the area, but sophomore goalie Ryan Johnson knocked it out from in front of the goal and scrambled to get it away from the outstretched foot of a Tiger forward.
The shutout was Johnson’s fourth of the year.
“We had four or five good practices this week,” junior Zach Chandis said after the game. “Definitely should have been more than two to nothing. We have been pretty unlucky all year.”
By the end of the game, both teams had become frustrated by failed scoring attempts and a physical game began to turn wild.
In the 64th minute, Chandis—who has developed a reputation for his intense play—was yellow-carded for a sliding tackle that took out the legs of a Princeton player.
Later in the half, senior forward Ladd Fritz was cautioned for a similar infraction. That card came shortly after a play in which a Princeton player ran into Johnson as he picked up a loose ball.
“We knew it was going to be a physical game, [but] all the boys were up for it,” Chandis said.
The Crimson will travel to Rhode Island on Wednesday to take on Providence. The Friars—who are ranked No. 7 in New England—recently tied No. 14 Brown, which beat the Crimson 3-0 last Saturday.
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