Kudos and a job well done to Harvard Athletics on their second annual Fall Fiesta soccer game, a game where the hosts defeated Northeastern 1-0 (more on that later). Unlike last year, I was in the stands, rather than the broadcast booth, for this game, and Harvard did a great job of generating student turnout for this game. Between innovative prizes (free laundry for a year) and the promise of free Crimson Cash, t-shirts, and drawstring bags, as well as free Coke products, there was plenty to get students to come out, and stay, for the game.
The Hills Were Alive
The best feature of Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium may be its location. Sitting in the stands gives you an imposing look at Harvard Stadium, and during night games, some of the Boston skyline is also visible. But the second best feature, and the most notable tonight, are the hills behind both goals. Sort of like the old European-style terraces, the hills encourage standing and are a natural congregating spot for Harvard undergrads (particularly behind the opposition's goal in any given half.) It was from there that most of the chants originated: the standard "Let's Go Harvard," the "I Believe That We Will Win" that started at Lavietes Pavillion, the "Ole, Ole" of futbol, and even an "It's All Your Fault" transplanted from the ice of the Bright Center. Sure, one minor criticism was that the chants tended to stay on the hill, but that's because the stands were mostly the province of the freshmen, who didn't know any better. Still, the stands got more into it as the game went on, and soon every goal scoring opportunity from the Crimson was met with Harvard fans rising to their feet.
Harvard Fan Comment of the Night
"Give him a Grammy!" - guy in my section after a perceived flop by a Northeastern player. Right idea, wrong awards show.
Oh yeah, the game
On top of the atmosphere, the game on the pitch lived up to the billing. Harvard seems more comfortable in the second year of Coach Junot's system and really pressed Northeastern from the get-go. That said, Harvard lacked the clinical touch in the final third for much of the game, and the best opportunity was actually the Huskies: a diving header in the box that was turned away by star senior keeper Austin Harms. Finally, though, the Crimson benefited from a set piece and in the 83', Brian Rodgers had the ball fall to him off a corner and he slotted it in to the lower left corner of the net.
Besides the creation of the Crimson rewards program that benefits attending select games, Harvard has really done a great job in encouraging student turnout. The night football games have been such a hit that Harvard is now adding a second to the schedule. Thanks in part to their winning ways, basketball has been one of the hardest tickets to get on campus. And this year, many of the men's and women's soccer games will be played under the lights of Soldier's Field. That said, Harvard should push to have more "big events" like the Fall Fiesta. For example, a "Winter Festival" with either basketball or hockey the weekend students return for the second semester, taking advantage of the relative lack of classes and work for students during "shopping period", much as the Fall Fiesta does, as well as the continuation of the "Spring Carnival" that centers around lacrosse. Again, though, a job well done to Harvard Athletics for getting more students to events. It's a positive trend to see so many budding sports fans don their school colors.