A full week off between games might just be the cure that the Harvard men’s soccer team (1-3-1) needs after a tough 1-0 loss at BU’s Nickerson Field last Saturday.
Tuesday’s game at Rhode Island was canceled due to inclement weather, giving the Crimson a full week to prepare for Sunday night’s home clash against Albany. As of now, the URI game has not been rescheduled.
“Obviously we’re disappointed we didn’t get to play,” senior midfielder Christian Sady said. “But the week off gives us a chance to get healthy…. It will give us time to work on the things we deem necessary.”
This will be Harvard’s first ever matchup against the Great Danes, continuing this year’s trend of facing off against unfamiliar foes. Albany (5-2-0) enters the week having won five of its last six games, but is just 1-2 on the road.
Harvard enters play this week 1-1-1 over its past three games, squeaking out a big victory on the road against Providence, thanks to an 84th minute goal from freshman midfielder/forward Paolo Belloni-Urso. The Crimson played to a hard-fought 1-1 double-overtime tie in the following game against crosstown rival Northeastern at home. Then came Saturday’s loss at BU, and the team is now hoping to rebound at home this weekend and get back in the win column.
Harvard’s stifling defense, anchored by co-captains Eric Gylling and Justin Crichlow, has been the team’s greatest strength over the past three games, allowing only three goals over that span.
Senior goalie Kyle Parks has also played well of late, allowing just one goal in the Crimson’s win over the Friars. Against the Huskies, Parks made a career-high seven saves, including a tremendous tip over the crossbar in the dying minutes of double overtime to preserve the 1-1 tie.
Following Parks’ lead, freshman goalkeeper Matt Freese had a strong debut between the posts against BU in his first career start, allowing only one goal and making a pair of saves. Harvard’s defense only allowed three shots on target, but the Terriers’ lone goal was enough to prevail over the Crimson on Saturday.
“The goalkeeping has been fantastic,” remarked Crichlow, one of the keystones of the defense. “Whether Matt or Kyle is in goal, the team has full confidence in both of them.”
While Harvard has struggled to score in bunches, the visiting Great Danes have had no problem racking up goals, scoring 15 goals over the first six games of the season, outscoring opponents by an impressive 13-2 margin in four home games.
Albany’s offense is paced by upperclassmen Alfonso Pinheiro and Carlos Clark, who have scored four goals apiece. Redshirt freshman forward Owen Fingar has also chipped in with three goals for the Great Danes.
Fingar, who has yet to start a game but has been substituted into six of Albany’s seven games, was just named Rookie of the Week for the America East conference. The forward has scored his three goals on a mere six shots, easily the best shooting percentage on the Great Danes’ roster.
The stout Albany defense is helmed by upperclassmen Moosah Khanat, Nico Solabarrieta, and Daniel Krutzen, who have started all seven games of the season. The defensive unit has allowed only six goals across the season, and only three in the past six games.
In goal, the Great Danes have employed a two-goalkeeper rotation, with senior Lucas Vallilo and redshirt junior Danny Vitiello each starting three games. Vallilo and Vitiello have recorded a clean sheet each.
Harvard will have its work cut out for it but is hoping that the full week of preparation coupled with playing at the friendly confines of Jordan Field will be enough to keep the Great Danes at bay.
“There have been spurts of excellence from our team,” said Crichlow. “But we have not put together a full 90 minutes yet.”
With Ivy League opening up on the road in New Haven against rival Yale next weekend, Crichlow and the Crimson hope to sustain that excellence for the full 90 minutes this Sunday.