Sometimes it’s not the score line, but the expectations, that determine the end result.
For Harvard men’s soccer, playing to a 1-1 tie against Brown Saturday night at Jordan Field, this rang true. Looking to pick up a second win in conference play, Harvard (2-7-3, 1-1-1 Ivy League) hoped for a system win against a traditionally lesser opponent. Instead, upstart Brown (6-3-2, 1-1-1) brought a chippy, untidy game and a tying goal to leave the Crimson licking its lips at the missed opportunity.
In Ivy League soccer, there is no conference tournament and each regular season game carries added weight. For perennial contenders such as Harvard, who look to win the conference title and make the NCAA tournament, missed opportunities can mean missing games. That’s why a loss to a non-conference opponent can leave the team positive (see last Tuesday against Boston College), while a hard-fought draw can sting long after winter sets in. The Crimson is playing for its season, just much earlier in its schedule.
Not surprisingly, Harvard found that pressure early in its first home Ivy League matchup. The team was eager to avenge last weekend’s away loss to Cornell.
“The first ten, fifteen minutes were very tense,” said defender and co-captain Justin Crichlow. “Everyone was really tense on the field. Then we settled in and got to playing and we really took advantage of our ability to play possession.”
The Crimson was first to snap out of its daze and play through the haze—a thick fog accented the levity of the game while occasionally obscuring vision—in the 21st minute. Points leader (7) and sophomore forward Philip Hausen converted a penetrating pass from freshman midfielder Sebastian Lindner-Liaw (who coincidentally recorded his first collegiate point).
“I saw that Sebastian got the ball in the middle,” Hausen said. “I knew I had space out wide so I just slowed my run down and then called for the ball. He saw me, and I took my first touch inside and finished with my right foot.”
Harvard came soon after with more pressure as it looked to tack on an insurance goal. The time looked to come with 15 minutes left in the first half as a save by Brown’s senior goalkeeper Joey Cipicchio turned into a juicy rebound and a point-blank shot. But a Brown player was able to block the shot and keep the Providence, R.I. team in the game.
Brown responded before halftime as a long throw-in from senior midfielder Quinn English into the Crimson’s penalty box was brought down by junior defender Jack Hagstrom, who was able to fire off a shot in the goalmouth scramble to level the score.
“Unfortunately, they were better on set pieces today,” Crichlow said. “We’ve just got to work on that this week in practice and hopefully play better when we play Princeton next.
The goal proved to be an important turning point as the game slowed down in the second half. Hagstrom, an All-Ivy member last year, led the Brown defense as the two teams battled for possession. The two teams only put two shots on net, respectively, in the second half.
“Towards the end, we started to let them dictate the game, which is letting it bounce, having it being somewhat of a chippy game, looking for a lot of balls in the air,” Hausen said.
This led to Brown getting the better of the chances in the second regulation period. Brown whizzed a pair of shots right over the crossbar and fed crosses into the box. It took a sprawling senior goalkeeper Kyle Parks and back post clearance by Crichlow to prevent easy tap-ins and preserve the tie.
The push by Brown lasted into overtime when Harvard’s defense had to respond with its own goal line clearance. Still, the Crimson looked for chances and was successful in injecting the ball into dangerous areas. But the opportunities never materialized and the team walked off the field disappointed.
“We wanted to get into their wide spaces and go at their outside backs,” Crichlow said. “We wanted to overload, get our outside backs around, and get into some 2 v 1 situations. And we did that pretty well. But it’s just unfortunate that we weren’t able to get more than one goal tonight. I think we had it in us, but it just never came together.”
Luckily for Harvard, a Columbia tie against Princeton this weekend means that the Crimson still controls its destiny regarding its post-season hopes, just three points back from the conference-leading Lions and Big Green. But the team knows that it will have to perform better in the coming games, else disappointment will turn into despair.
—Staff writer William Quan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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