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The third time might be the charm for the Harvard men’s soccer team (0-2, 0-0 Ivy League), which is still on the hunt for its first win of the season after being shut out twice during its opening weekend.
Saturday’s game will mark the third time that this Crimson team will face off with a team which it has never played before.
The team has not met Providence (2-2, 0-0 Big East) on the pitch since the 2013 season, meaning that for the current squad, it’s a completely new experience.
“Providence is a very good team this year, like Xavier and UMass Lowell,” sophomore midfielder Matthew Glass said. “We’re focused on getting into an attacking rhythm as well as doing our best to keep them away from our goal.”
In the last matchup, the Friars dominated for much of the game, answering a Harvard goal late in the first half and then going on to score twice more in the second half. Now the Crimson has a chance to respond to that loss with a win of its own.
Harvard goes into this match at Chapley Field in Providence, R.I., in a similar position as it did four years ago—with two losses and no wins. This time around, though, the team is completely different from what it was, and has different strengths and areas that it needs to work on.
“From the last games, especially the game against UMass Lowell, we thought that we did a lot better job at defending, so we’re really trying to work on attacking and creating chances,” co-captain Eric Gylling said.
The Crimson has a high-powered offense fueled by several players, including freshmen midfielder Paolo Belloni-Urso, who led the offense in shots taken in the home opener, midfielder Sebastian Lindner-Law, defender/forward Rory Conway, and defender/midfielder Fernando Doctors. Soon the offense will be bolstered by players returning from injury, when the team will be able to focus on increasing the pressure and putting points on the scoreboard.
“We just have to focus on continuing to create chances and then hopefully the goals will start coming,” Glass said. “In terms of the freshmen, each of them has done really well so far and are fighting for starting spots.”
On the defensive end, the back line led by Gylling, fellow co captains Justin Crichlow and senior goalie Kyle Parks remains solid. Parks has made a career-best six saves in both games, and Crichlow and Gylling, along with sophomores Joel Serugo and Gavin Baker-Greene and others, have helped keep pressure off Parks by making key tackles and clearances and setting offside traps for opponents.
Over the past couple of games, both offense and defense have begun to find a rhythm as the players—especially the freshmen—shake off their start-of-season jitters and build their confidence.
Though Harvard has worked on the difficulties that it has faced in the past two games, it will not be an easy feat to win on the road against a team that has also worked out the kinks and is currently enjoying a two-game win streak.
Like the Crimson, the Friars also boast a high-octane offense. The team has steadily upped its dominance in the attacking third and the number of shots on goal it takes. There have been different scorers in each game, including the third highest all-time scorer, redshirt senior Mac Steeves, who has scored three goals in the last two games.
Defensively, Providence has cleaned up its back line and appears to have settled on redshirt junior Colin Miller to be goalie after testing out two different goalies in the first two matches of the season. Miller allowed just one goal against URI and recorded a shutout against Bryant.
Harvard will have its work cut out for it against Providence, but it has adequately prepared and is poised to make a comeback and record a win before the end of its two-game road series.
“I think we’ll make the changes to our squad and that’s what we’ve been working on this week, so I think we’re pretty set going into Providence,” Gylling said.
—Staff writer Katherine H. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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