Crimson Bullish For Next NCAA Match

Alexandra P. Kass

Junior midfielder Brian Grimm will look to help the No. 30 Harvard men’s soccer team tonight as it takes on No. 8 University of Southern Florida in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The No. 30 Harvard men’s soccer team thinks it can play with the best teams in the country. The Crimson will have that chance tonight, as it faces No. 8 University of South Florida in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Harvard (12-5, 5-2 Ivy) comes into the match on a high, following its dramatic 1-0 double-overtime victory over the University of Massachusetts on Saturday. Junior Andre Akpan scored the winner in the 103rd minute, sending the Crimson through to the second round.

The final result was only half the story from Amherst, MA, though. Strong wind and a hard, slippery playing surface made for a very sloppy game where each team was forced to play hopeful long balls.

Yesterday, the team traveled from the cold of Massachusetts to the sun in Florida in preparation for today’s match.

The change of scenery should make for a completely different game.

“Florida will have better conditions for us to play the way we want to play,” Akpan said.

Akpan and co-captain Michael Fucito lead the attack and have scored 19 goals between the two of them this season. With senior John Stamatis playing the creative midfield role in the hole behind them, and with sophomore Alex Chi and junior Adam Rousmaniere on the flanks, Harvard likes to move quickly up the field off the counter-attack. The warmer temperature in Tampa should allow the Crimson to play the ball to feet and use their skill to do what they do best.

Harvard will not be the only ones enjoying the conditions tonight. South Florida (14-4-2, 7-3-1 Big East) has not lost at home this season going 9-0-1. The Bulls have made USF Soccer Stadium a fortress, allowing only three goals all year on their home field.

South Florida is also a very technically gifted team, and there is no doubt that tonight’s matchup will prove much more pleasing to watch than the Crimson’s first-round battle.

Senior forward Jordan Seabrook leads the Bulls in both goals (five) and assists (six). Captain Yohance Marshall is the stalwart at the back, and was named to the Big East All-Conference First Team. He was joined by senior midfielder Kevon Neaves, who has international experience with the Trinidad & Tobago national team.

South Florida had a bye in the first round of the tournament following its Big East championship. The Bulls staked their claim as one of the nation’s best with their performance in the conference tournament. After disposing of Georgetown, South Florida came up against perennial powerhouse No. 11 Notre Dame—the team that had handed it an embarrassing 5-0 drubbing two months earlier. The Bulls came away with a 2-1 win that set up a thrilling final against No. 3 St. John’s. Again, South Florida was able to take revenge on a team that had beaten it earlier in the year. A 1-0 overtime victory handed the Bulls the Big East title and a top-ten ranking.

Tonight, Harvard will look to do what no other team has been able to. Junior Brian Grimm will have to make it more difficult for the Bulls to pass the ball in midfield if the Crimson is to thwart the South Florida attack and get through to the third round. Grimm has shown himself to be a valuable asset in his first season as a full-time starter, protecting the already solid back four of senior Michael Giammanco, junior Kwaku Nyamekye, co-captain Luke Sager, and sophomore Robert Millock.

Despite this being the third year in a row that Harvard has made the tournament, none of its current crop of players has made it past the second round.

“Last year we had intentions of going further,” co-captain Sager said. “Now we’ve gotten past the first step.”

The Crimson is hoping to take their chance this time around, and the team is looking to continue to play for as long as possible.

“Guys are just excited to get a few more days of soccer,” coach Jamie Clark said.

Harvard will look to extend their season into the weekend tonight. Kickoff in Tampa is scheduled for 7:30.

—Staff writer Jay M. Cohen can be reached at