Shortly after the Harvard men’s soccer team defeated the visiting University of Massachusetts Minutemen this past Sunday (Sept. 16) by a score of 2-1, Crimson coach John Kerr attributed the success of his crew to their “poised” and “patient” play. Though Kerr’s words might aptly describe some of his squad’s many strengths, the gentlemanly characterization also seems a bit out of place for a nationally ranked team on a 6-0 tear.
In fact, against the Minutemen, Kerr’s Crimson could just as well be described as “stone-faced” and “unwearied.”
Following a scoreless first half that saw Harvard (ranked No. 11 at press time) fire off eight shots to the visitors’ three, the Crimson broke the stalemate at the 35:36 mark of the second stanza when sophomore Andre Akpan nudged a free kick from teammate Matt Hoff ’08 into the lower right corner of the net. The goal marked Akpan’s third in as many contests. A preseason All-America pick, Akpan is pacing the Crimson offense with those three tallies and his six assists.
A little over 10 minutes later, Akpan helped Harvard to a 2-0 advantage when he delivered a short pass to classmate Brian Grimm. Positioned at the top of the box, Grimm promptly fired a line drive out of the reach of 6-foot-2-inch keeper Zack Simmons. The goal — the midfielder’s first of the young season — proved to be the game winner.
Following 22 minutes of scoreless soccer, UMass got on the board with just two minutes remaining when striker Stuart Amick beat Crimson keeper Adam Hahn ’08. Bolstered by imposing defenseman Kwaku Nyamekye ’10 — one of Harvard’s exciting underclassmen — the Crimson clamped down in the closing moments to secure the single goal edge. All told, the Crimson defense gave up just 10 shots on goal to tie their season best. Hahn, meanwhile, recorded three saves.
Coach Kerr called Harvard’s ability to hang on “a real confidence booster for the defense.” And no wonder: opposite visiting rival BU just two days prior (Sept. 14), the Crimson gave up 16 shots on goal in their 2-1 win. And even though Harvard’s first goal came off a Terrier defender accidentally sending the ball into the net of his own team just two minutes into the match — an annoying asterisk if there ever was one — Harvard still managed to keep BU off the scoreboard until the final minute of play.
Unbeaten one third into the season, Harvard evidently understands how to get it done. Or, as coach Kerr put it after the UMass victory, “We’re still relatively young with two seniors, but you can tell that this team knows what it’s doing.”
Harvard will look to protect its 6-0 record this weekend in Los Angeles at the Loyola Marymount Invitational. On Friday (Sept. 21), Harvard takes on the host university followed by a showdown on Sunday (Sept. 23) versus the University of California, Santa Barbara.