As his third year on the Harvard men’s soccer team was coming to a close last Saturday, junior Tim Linden could have gone quietly into the offseason with yet another solid performance out on the left wing.
Instead, when his team needed someone to step up and put the game away, Linden threaded his way into the attack to score the goal that would ultimately down No. 18 Penn in overtime.
“He was at the right place at the right time,” senior midfielder Alex Chi said. “He just never stops working. He is very good defensively, and he’s always dangerous on the left side. He was playing on the left, and he always has a knack for knowing where to be at the right time.”
In the 108th minute, freshman Connor McCarthy received a pass from junior Ben Tsuda that freed him up against a sole defender. The rookie noticed an open Linden streaking down the left and sent him a pass that the junior had no trouble putting away on the first touch, making the final score 2-1.
The game-winning goal not only gave the Crimson its first victory over a top-20 team since September, but it also marked the first goal of Linden’s collegiate career.
“I was actually surprised when I heard that he got his first goal because he has played an important part in so many of the goals we’ve scored,” sophomore forward Brian Rogers said. “I think it’s definitely well deserved, and it meant a lot to the team since it was the game-winning goal.”
It couldn’t have come at a better time, ending the men’s soccer season on a high note and putting a stop to a 15-game streak in which Harvard scored just one goal or fewer per game.
“[Linden’s goal] was a great way to end our season,” Chi said. “By our standards, it was a really bad season, but beating a team like Penn that’s highly ranked on a national scale, it showed that we did have the capability to play with the best teams in the nation.”
The offense finally woke up in the season finale, with Rogers first scoring in the 41st minute off a primary assist by Linden before he chipped in the game winner in the overtime period.
“He slipped the ball to me five yards outside of the 18-yard [penalty box] that I was just able to take down,” Rogers said. “He gave a good flick when I called for it and put me in a position that allowed me to score.”
The goal was especially satisfying since it came against the Quakers, a team that prevented the Crimson from winning the Ivy League title two years ago. The team had hoped that this final matchup would have done the same for Penn, but because of the Quakers’ loss to Princeton last week, Penn would remain out of contention unless Princeton lost its final match. Regardless, Harvard did its part to ensure that Penn did not win any share of this season’s Ivy title.
“I think it was a little bit of revenge for the guys,” Rogers said. “We were never really happy after one [goal], and hopefully the goal Tim scored will carry us through a productive offseason in which, like he was able to use last offseason, guys are able to step up and be contributors next year.”
For his efforts on both sides of the field, Linden was named the Ivy League Player of the Week.
Considered to be a rebuilding year after several key members of last year’s NCAA-qualifying team graduated, this season proved to be a difficult one for the Crimson.
But Linden’s leadership as a junior was invaluable for the young team, and his first career goal could foreshadow what should be an increased role for him on the team next year.
“Tim, being an upperclassmen now, he’s one of the guys that the underclassmen can talk to,” Chi said. “He’s always been very skilled on the ball when he’s on the field. His off-the-field mentality has improved a lot, and he’s definitely one of the future leaders of the team next year.”
—Staff writer Brian A. Campos can be reached at email@example.com.