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Last season, the Harvard men’s soccer team was left in shock on its own sideline after an overtime goal by then-freshman Amadu Kunateh gave Dartmouth a 1-0 win at Jordan Field and essentially sealed the Ivy title for the Big Green. This year, however, the Crimson exacted revenge.
Playing on the road at Dartmouth’s Burnham Field, junior midfielder Sam Brown’s 25 yard screamer in the 80th minute gave Harvard (10-3-2, 4-0-1 Ivy) a 1-0 victory over Dartmouth (5-4-5, 3-1-1). With the win, the Crimson gained sole possession of first place in the Ancient Eight standings and are in control of their own fate with two weeks to go.
“It was an unbelievable game, one of the most exciting games I’ve ever been a part of in my four years here.” senior defender Alex Leondis said. “It was an overall great game and we’re happy to come away with what we wanted because we competed and fought for each other.”
With just over ten minutes left in the game, freshman midfielder Matthew Glass attempted to dribble into the Big Green box and play a 1-2 with senior forward Pieter Zenner before deciding to lay it back to Brown.
The Ann Arbor, Mich. native took a touch to set it on his left foot before belting a low shot from 25 yards out towards the bottom right corner, where a diving Dartmouth goalie James Hickok was unable to save it. The goal was Brown’s first of the season and couldn’t have come at a better time for Harvard.
“We’ve seen Sam hit balls all year in training and even in games where he’s just gotten unlucky that they haven’t hit the back of the net,” senior forward Jake Freeman said. “It was almost as though he was due for it...we expect him to stay after that even though it hadn’t shown up in the score sheet.”
Going into the game, the Crimson knew it was in for a scrappy battle against a Big Green team allowing less than a goal per game. With this matchup going a long way to decide the conference title over the past few years, it was clear both teams were going to make the other work for any opportunities as opposed to allowing for a high-pressing, attacking clash.
Dartmouth claimed the first chance in the 17th minute, as junior goalkeeper Kyle Parks was unable to handle a cross from midfielder Justin Donawa but the Big Green was unable to take advantage as junior defender Justin Crichlow cleared it before any harm could be done.
Sophomore forward Cesar Farias had the best first half opportunity for Harvard, who outshot the Big Green by a 3-2 margin in the opening stanza, but was unable to bury the ball past Hickok.
The Crimson were lucky to not find themselves behind in the opening minute of the second frame, as midfielder Justin Nierneberg sprung the offside trap after being played through by fellow midfielder Noah Paravicini. The junior sent a shot at the far post after Parks came out early but was unable to find the back of the net despite getting the ball past the Harvard goalkeeper.
Nierenberg had an almost identical opportunity in the 69th minute after Donawa’s through ball made its way past the backline but his curling shot past Parks once again ran just outside the post, maintaining a 0-0 draw.
Ten minutes later, the Big Green was left to regret its unseized opportunities when Brown’s goal sent the Crimson sideline into a frenzy, a much different mood than a year before.
“Obviously there’s the redemption and revenge factor and it felt even better to go into their place and really just put in a great performance like this and play them off the field.” Freeman said. “It gets us one step closer to our goal, that’s really what’s most important.”
The win means Harvard finishes its five game road trip with a perfect record and now sits in the perfect position to claim coach Pieter Lehrer’s first Ancient Eight crown. With two games left, the Crimson sit a top the Ivy League with a 4-0-1 mark, good for 13 points, while Columbia and Dartmouth are drawn for second at 3-1-1, good for ten.
With the Lions coming to town this weekend, a win would secure the title for Harvard regardless of its result against Penn on the last weekend. Despite the possibility to secure the team’s first Ivy title since 2009 next weekend, Freeman insists the Crimson will not be blinded by the storyline but instead be focused solely on preparing for Columbia, treating the game as it if were like any other clash this season.
“This is just the next game up and we’re going to prepare like we do every week.” Leondis said. “We’re going to compete and enjoy it and if we do that we’ll put ourselves in a position to hopefully win [the Ivy title] this weekend at home.”
–Staff writer Julio Fierro can be reached at email@example.com.
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