The men’s soccer team will look to end October with only one loss during the month and, more importantly, an undefeated Ivy League record, when it travels to Cambridge for a Saturday afternoon showdown against Harvard. The Tigers (5-6-1 overall, 2-0-1 Ivy League) are tied atop the Ivy League with Yale (3-8-1, 2-0-1) and Penn (5-6-1, 2-0-1). This weekend’s matchup between the Bulldogs and Quakers gives the Tigers a chance to gain ground on at least one of those two teams.
While Harvard (3-7-2, 2-1) has only notched three wins so far this season, the Crimson is right on the heels of the Tigers in the conference, having a winning record in Ivy League play. Harvard’s only loss came on the road against Yale in a game in which the Bulldogs scored both of their goals in the last three minutes of play to earn the 2-1 victory. The Tigers are well aware that this Harvard lineup is not to be taken lightly.
“Harvard’s record is not really indicative of their team,” sophomore defender Josh Miller said. “Every team in the conference is really good, and Harvard should really be 3-0 in the Ivy League right now. We’re expecting a tough fight from them.”
Harvard presents an offensive lineup that will pose a great challenge to Princeton’s defense. The depth of the men from Cambridge is obvious: 10 different players have scored for the Crimson despite the team totaling just 13 goals. Above all, Harvard’s leading goal scorer is one of their youngest, as Colorado native Ashi Geberkidane leads the team with three goals. Harvard’s particular strength not only lies in its versatility, but also in its pace of play, which the Tigers know they will have to be ready for come Saturday.
“Harvard plays with a ton of energy,” sophomore forward Nico Hurtado said. “They score most of their goals off of set pieces. They have really long throw-ins of 40 to 50 yards, and they’re really strong on corner kicks. Our preparation has mostly been on defending these set pieces and being ready for them to pressure us in the beginning with their high energy and tight spaces.”
“Our scouting report has them being a really aggressive team offensively,” Miller said. “They’re the kind of team where if the ball goes out of bounds for them, they pick it up and put it immediately back in play. They’ve scored about eight goals this season off of throw-ins alone.”
While this weekend marks the halfway point of the semester for Princeton students, it also marks the halfway point for the soccer team’s Ivy League schedule. The Tigers not only recognize the importance of winning a tough road matchup, but also understand how favorably they can position themselves in the conference as November approaches.
“We feel this weekend is going to separate the top half from the bottom half,” Hurtado said. “It’s kind of happened already, but it will especially be true after this weekend when Penn plays Yale because they’re both high in the standings.”
“We’re expecting a really athletic team on Saturday that likes getting numbers of defense and pressuring a lot,” Miller said. “We’re pretty confident we can beat them, but we know they’ll come out really hot at the beginning. We need to break their pressure early on and then get ourselves into the game.”
Kickoff from Cambridge is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium.