The Crimson came into the match boasting an impressive recent record against the Bulldogs, as well as a sizeable lead in the all-time matchup, which stands at 54-38-12 in Harvard’s favor. The Crimson has not lost to Yale since 2013 and is unbeaten in the matchup at home since 2005. Harvard looked from kickoff as if it was hungry to maintain that record.
“We always get to start Ivy League against Yale and that’s fantastic,” said defender and captain Nathan Goldberg. “This is probably the game that gets the guys most fired up. It’s really a privilege to take part in the oldest rivalry in American sports history.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Matt Freese was given lots of work to do early, saving well from a free-kick in the first minute before getting down to make an even better stop on the ensuing rebound. The action kept coming for the Crimson’s goalkeeper, who came up big again for Harvard just seconds later in the second minute. The Bryn Mawr, Penn., native denied sophomore forward Aldo Quevedo at edge of box in a one-on-one situation after a nicely-weighted pass from just beyond midfield split the Crimson defense.
Yale’s in-form freshman forward Paolo Carroll almost bagged his fourth goal in as many games in the eighth minute, slotting through Freese’s legs after being played through on goal, but the play was called back for offside.
It was a hard-hitting game early, with both sets of players letting one other know that they were there. The teams and benches were vocal on nearly every call, and there were a lot of calls to make, as the teams nearly split the game’s whopping 35 fouls, with Harvard collecting 18.
Good interplay between freshman forward Alfred Perez and sophomore Paolo Belloni-Urso in the 27th minute led to Harvard’s best chance of the opening half hour, but the midfielder’s dipping effort was saved by the Bulldogs’ sophomore goalkeeper Tom Wallenstein before it could find the bottom corner. It took the Crimson just four touches to get from its own 18-yard box into Yale’s, one example of Harvard’s ability to play the long game effectively.
The Crimson came close again near the end of the half, when freshman forward Nico Garcia-Morillo found the ball in a pocket of space in the box in the 37th minute. Fellow freshman forward Alex Debayo-Doherty started the move after he split two defenders down the line to find Belloni-Urso near the corner of the box. Belloni-Urso’s cross found Garcia-Morillo, who had more time than he may have thought, firing his first-time effort over the bar from close range.
Junior Miguel Yuste almost found the back of the net in the 49th minute for Yale after some skillful dribbling opened up a yard of space for the midfielder near the edge of the box. His shot looked to be heading for the top right corner, but it whizzed just inches wide of the frame of the goal.
Perez broke the deadlock for Harvard in the 59th minute, finishing cleverly for his second goal of the season following a defensive miscue from Yale. Senior defender Cameron Riach attempted to redirect a bouncing ball back to his goalkeeper, but his header lacked power, allowing Perez to swoop in and pick up the loose ball. His first-touch chip sailed over the onrushing keeper and into the back of the net to give the Crimson the lead with half an hour remaining.
“It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for.” said Perez of his first Ivy League goal. “We work hard all season, so to achieve success in our first Ivy League game means a lot. There’s a lot to work on, but this is a good start, and we can build off of this.”
It was a wide-open, back and forth game throughout, with the Bulldogs just edging Harvard in the share of the chances, and the majority of possession throughout most of the game. The Crimson began to look more lively following the goal, as Yale had to commit more men forward in search of an equalizer.
Harvard again employed a number of young players, and were rewarded for its faith in its youth. Freshmen Debayo Doherty, Perez, midfielder Havard Hjermstad, and sophomores Freese, Belloni-Urso, and midfielder Sebastian Lindner-Liaw all came up big for the Crimson, with the younger players leading the charge offensively. Disciplined performances from veteran defenders kept Harvard in the game on the other side of the field. Captain Sam Brown played a strong game on defense, his biggest contribution coming when he got down to make a vital block in the six-yard box in the 26th minute as senior midfielder Nicky Downs closed in on goal. Fellow seniors Jack Miler and Eduardo Cedeño helped to ensure the clean sheet for the Crimson by keeping the Bulldogs’ lively forwards in check.
Freese made another great save in the 88th minute to deny a rocket from Yuste from the edge of the box, which looked to be heading straight towards the top left corner. A strong touch from Freese knocked the shot over the bar to safety, for the keeper’s fifth and most important save of the game.
“Having Matt Freese in goal is great.” Goldberg said. “He’s so dependable, we can trust him to pull out those big saves at the start of the game, and at the end of the game as well.”
—Staff writer Eamon J. McLoughlin can be reached at email@example.com.
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