Just got back from Newton where Harvard and Boston College met on the soccer field in an attempt to claim Boston area bragging rights, and it was Harvard that came out on top 2-0 to claim the "Labor Day Derby."
Rather than just lay out the game notes here, I decided since I ventured forth, I would tell what I saw in Newton. Although I will rely on the game notes for things that can escape (or be forgotten by) people not in the press box, including names and key times in the game.
Boston College drew a good crowd for the game, including a number of BC Superfans and other students, but the small but vocal mixture of parents and students who headed to BC to support Harvard made their voices heard as well.
I arrived at the field just in time to see Harvard strike first, at the 21:29 minute mark, when Andre Akpan corralled a loose ball in the area and sent it to the far post to Scott Prozeller, who fired it to his right to put it past the BC keeper, earning his first career goal. This completely quieted the Boston College crowd, only encouraging the Crimson Crazies that had made it out to the game. (With thanks and appreciation to Sports Illustrated on Campus and their good read on Harvard football tailgating from 2007 for the picture/story.)
Boston College came close to equalizing, as a turnover led to a close range shot for them, but it was turned away by keeper Austin Harms, who kept BC's two-shots on goal out of harms way (pun intended).
Then Harvard returned to the other end of the field, and a gasp went up from the partisan crowd as freshman Brian Rodgers got his head on a good cross, but it was turned away at the last moment with a fantastic save by Justin Luthy. Harvard then earned another opportunity, as Ben Tsuda fired a shot off the crossbar.
Harvard would then be the beneficiary of the woodwork when Edvin Worley found a good amount of space in front of the Harvard defense during a BC counter attack, and he fired a shot from fifteen yards out that, had it been on goal, would have been impossible to save for any goalkeeper. Fortunately, for Harvard fans, it cracked off the near post and the Crimson were able to clear. The BC fans were stunned at their misfortune, and the Harvard fans were now anxious.
BC had regained some momentum at this point and were looking dangerous, but with less than a minute left, the speedy Brian Rodgers sent a ball over to Andre Akpan, who left a beautiful touch pass for Jamie Rees, who put it in the back of the net, sending the Ivy League squad into the locker rooms with a 2-0 lead at the half, relieving Harvard fans of their anxiety and already sending some of the BC "Superfans" home.
That scoreline became the final score, after a half that saw BC and Harvard trying to cut into and add to the lead respectively. The best chance of the night came for BC in the 73rd minute, when Charlie Rugg got the ball on his foot at the near post, with Harms out of position. A Crimson defender tried sliding over to pressure Rugg, and while he didn't get the ball, the slide clearly affected Rugg, who sent the ball sailing wide. BC appealed for possession of the ball, either because of a perceived foul or for a corner, but the referee ignored their protests and signaled for the goalkick.
After that, Harvard played a quality possession game, and came close to adding to their lead, while BC didn't truly threaten the Crimson backline.
The man of the match:
I'm tempted to take Brian Rodgers here. His speed really created havoc at times for the Eagles' defenders, he set up the put-away goal, and he had a couple of opportunities in the second half to make it 3-0 Harvard. He just needed a little bit more luck with his touches and he would have been a goalscorer.
That said, I have to give it to sophomore defender Baba Omosegbon, who was a stalwart on defense. Everytime BC seemed to have an attack going, he either got a head to the ball or got his foot in to take possession and then clear it down the field. He broke up countless BC attacks, and was a key reason in why Harms only had to make two saves to earn his shutout/clean sheet.
That ends my take on the game. Here's a postgame quote from Coach Clark that I took from Harvard's press release:
“Every win against an ACC opponent is a great win. We were successfully scoring early today and to get those early goals on their field and on a playing surface we’re not used to [turf] was the key.”
More on this when the weekend preview gets written up and posted, but this isn't the last game for Harvard this week against Boston rivals. The Crimson face a ranked Boston University squad at Ohiri Field on Friday, giving me a few days to try to think of more puns with the word derby.