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When the going gets tough, the tough get going—and with just a few games left in the regular season, the Harvard men’s soccer certainly did get going.
Throughout its matchup with Princeton, the Crimson (2-7-4,1-1-2 Ivy) offense began to find its rhythm and created multiple opportunities to score. Though the team had to settle for a draw, Harvard put up a dominant performance against the Tigers (3-6-4, 0-2-2) on Saturday at home.
“I thought we were the better team, but we struggled to impose our game on them for the full 90, which allowed them to keep the ball in the air and play a rather physical game, as opposed to letting us play on the ground and build going forward,” sophomore forward Philip Hausen said. “I thought the guys fought hard and gave it everything they had, we got unlucky to draw that game.”
After an initial deadlock during which neither of the teams got a shot off, the Crimson took control of the game.
The team’s offensive effort began with senior midfielder Christian Sady taking his first of eight corner kicks of the half. Though the team did not score on that opportunity, it did remain in its attacking third. As Harvard found ways to string passes together, and wear down Princeton’s defense, several opportunities came.
Several players contributed to the offense during the opening minutes of the game, including freshman defender, midfielder Fernando Doctors, midfielder, forward Paolo Belloni-Urso, junior defender, midfielder Jack Miler, and co-captain and defender Justin Crichlow. From more corner kicks, to headers, to shots from around the penalty box, the Crimson seemed likely to score at any moment and appeared to leave no room for Princeton to respond.
But Princeton was not to be outdone. After being held to just one shot by Harvard’s defense during the first 21 minutes of the game, the Tigers finally had a proper look at the Crimson’s goal. A corner kick by Matthew Mangini followed by header shot from Jeremy Colvin proved to be the Princeton’s best chance at goal, as they found themselves in their attacking third just twice more after that brief stint there during the 20th and 21st minutes.
Each of the Tigers’ offensive efforts was shut down by a solid Harvard defense, which either blocked their shots or forced them to take bad shots. Senior goalie Kyle Parks only had to make two saves the entire half.
Aside from the handful of opportunities that Princeton had, the Crimson maintained control during the later part of the first half, outshooting its opponent 10-4 and taking nine corner kicks. Though it could not capitalize on the opportunities it had, Harvard had the momentum going into the second stanza.
Maintaining that momentum and dominance in the second half, though, proved to be a bit more of a challenge. The Tigers made the first move, making an attempt at goal six minutes in. The Crimson quickly responded with offensive pressure of its own, and for the next twenty minutes, the Ancient Eight rivals played an increasingly physical game as they traded fouls and shots on goal.
The scoreless deadlock was broken in the 77th minute when Princeton’s Bryan Prudil intercepted a pass at midfield and sent a through ball to freshman Gaby Paniagua, who put the ball past Parks to score his first career goal.
Harvard regrouped quickly, and seven minutes later found itself in a position familiar throughout the game: in its attacking third, and getting set up for a Sady corner kick. Whereas in the other attempts Sady had been unlucky in connecting with teammates who would be able to convert, Doctors managed to find the ball at the near-side post. Doctors chipped the ball over to Hausen, who found the back of the net for the equalizer.
“We’re starting to string together solid performances now,” co-captain defender Eric Gylling said. “I don’t know if we can… work with our standings in the Ivy League very much at this point but it’s definitely a big plus to come together and have these solid performances now.”
With this draw, the Crimson still may be in the running for an Ivy title, but with little room for mistake. It must keep up its current level of play in the last few games of the season.
“No matter what we’re going to keep trying to win...and improve,” Gylling said. “If the standings work out and we’re still in it then great, but otherwise it’s all about finishing the season and building the program.”
—Staff writer Katherine H. Scott can be reached at email@example.com.
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