The Harvard men’s soccer team (4-3-1) followed up Saturday’s win against Iona with a strong result Tuesday night, outworking a scrappy Boston University side (3-3-1, 0-0-1 Patriot) in the team’s last game before the start of Ivy play.
The Crimson showed heavy early pressure, starting off high in a 4-3-3 formation. Harvard co-captain Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, normally deployed in the midfield to orchestrate the team’s attack and keep the back line protected, started at right-back and looked comfortable in the new role.
“We’re very comfortable with adjusting to start him at right back,” Harvard coach Pieter Lehrer said. “[Junior defender] Eric [Gylling] became healthy, and so it was a matter of where we could fit Eric on the field. Wheeler-Omiunu is so diverse, and I know a lot of MLS teams are very interested in him at right-back, and that’s because of his athleticism… You’d think he’d played right back his whole career.”
Harvard’s defense smothered the Terrier’s first half attack, limiting them to just one shot in the period. Senior center-backs Daniel Smith and Alex Leondis kept their line high, cutting out driven balls and minimizing space for BU’s high-powered attacking combinations.
“We defended really well,” Lehrer said. “We got good pressure to the ball and made it difficult for maybe one of the best attacking teams we’ve played all year. They have a lot of very good players, and they struggled getting forward.”
Junior Christian Sady broke the tie in the 44th minute with a chip that floated just over BU goalie Matt Gilbert’s diving effort and into the upper right corner. It was the second straight game with a goal for the winger, after he scored the game winner against Iona.
“I’m just happy when the team does well, so if I can contribute to that, then that’s good stuff,” Sady said. “I felt like the team worked hard. We knew what we had to adjust, and I thought we did it well. We sat in to try to let their backs play, and it worked well.”
The Terriers opened the second half reenergized. But the Crimson defense sustained the offensive barrage and hit their opponents on the counterattack as sloppy defending from the Terriers allowed senior forward Jake Freeman to slip past the backline and slot away a 51st minute breakaway goal to put Harvard up, 2-0.
After a foul call in the box in the 71st minute, the Terriers earned themselves a penalty kick, which forward Felix De Bona put home past a diving junior Harvard goalie Kyle Parks. The goal reinvigorated the Terriers and sent the Crimson defense scrambling, as the unit struggled to regain its first half form.
“A couple things happened,” Lehrer said. “[BU is] down by a goal, [and] they’re really pushing numbers forward at that point, and so they’re maybe going to get more chances than they normally get. The guys are committed to defending, and we know, regardless of who we play, that we can defend really well.”
Despite BU’s frantic attack, Harvard fought back. Junior Tyler Savitsky’s square pass across the face of the goal in the 87th minute found freshman Matthew Glass, who netted it to seal Harvard’s 3-1 victory.
After back-to-back wins against capable squads, the Crimson has regained momentum heading into Saturday’s Ivy opener against rival Yale. Harvard has found its stride at the dawn of the most crucial stretch of the season.
“We’re always ready for this game.” Sady said. “Our intensity was great, and we need to carry that because Ivy League games are pretty physical. If we keep working hard for each other, we’ll be good to go.”