The rain held off over a cloudy Ohiri Field on Saturday (Nov. 8), but Columbia still felt the storm. The Crimson’s 6-1 rout of the Lions undoubtedly sent the message to the University of Pennsylvania Quakers that if they want this year’s title, Harvard will make them earn it when the two meet on Saturday (Nov. 15).
The Crimson — who were without All-American midfielder Michael Fucito ‘09 for the second consecutive game because of an aggravated hip injury — entered Saturday’s contest tied for first place with Penn and needed a tie or win against Columbia to keep pace with the Quakers.
But in Saturday’s blowout of the Lions, the Crimson (11-4-0; 5-1-0 Ivy League) emphatically escorted Columbia back to New York City, scoring a season-high six goals, after losing their most recent Ivy League match (Nov. 1) to Dartmouth, 0-1. That loss was Harvard’s first Ivy defeat of the season.
The game got off to an unsettling start as Columbia (3-12-1; 1-5-0 Ivy League), the Ancient Eight’s No. 7 team, came out strong and aggressive, scoring the game’s first goal in the 18th minute. It was only freshman goalie Austin Harms’ second goal allowed in the opening half this season (the first was on a penalty kick in the Crimson’s 4-1 win against Providence).
But calm and collected, the Crimson responded with two late first-half goals, separated by five minutes. The second goal wrote All-American junior Andre Akpan into the record books with a sliding pass by the forward that set up a John Stamatis ’09 goal. The assist was the 27th of Akpan’s career, making him Harvard’s new all-time assist leader.
Then, coming out of the half, Akpan signed his name in the record books again on a diving header that pushed the ball to the back of the net for the Crimson’s third goal of the game. The goal made the junior Harvard’s career points leader with 95.
While Crimson players began to celebrate, down in the front corner of the goal lay a motionless Akpan and a Columbia player — Ohiri Field became eerily silent. With the Crimson already down one All-American, an injured Akpan would be great cause for concern. As he rose from the field (along with the downed Columbia player) to applause and cheers, the dazed forward, who had taken a cleat to the face, walked to the sidelines to watch the rest of the game on the bench. (Both players are fine.)
“Andre is unbelievable,” raved Jamie Clark, The Virginia B. and James O. Welch ’52 Head Coach for Harvard Men’s Soccer. “He gets marked by their best player almost every game. Guys pay special attention to him. It’s even harder now with Fucito out but he keeps finding a way.”
After the game, the junior striker made it clear where his focus is. “Obviously it’s a great honor, but first and foremost we want to win the Ivy League. That’s what we’re gunning for. I’d rather score and help our team win the Ivy League than score to break a record.”
The Crimson poured on three more goals of offense in the second half, removing any doubt that this year the Crimson considers it their mission to win the Ivy League title.
Harvard will head into Philadelphia on Saturday needing only a tie to be crowned outright Ivy champions and receive an automatic NCAA tournament birth. Men’s soccer has won only one league championship in the past decade.