Harvard battled through a hard-fought 110 minutes to secure a 1-1 draw at Bryant University on Saturday afternoon. The extra time ensued after regulation was not enough to separate the two sides. In the overtime session, neither team was able to find the golden goal despite both squads coming close in an end-to-end affair.
Harvard (1-0-1, 0-0 Ivy) had more corners and shots on goal than Bryant on the night, outshooting the Bulldogs 27-15, the highest shot tally for the Crimson since November 2015. Despite this shooting advantage, Harvard could not find the elusive second goal, settling instead for a draw.
The Crimson found itself behind halfway through the first half when Bryant took the lead through sophomore defender Abdel Talabi. Talabi rose higher than Harvard’s defense on a Bryant corner kick to head the ball home, putting the Bulldogs ahead on one of their two shots in the first half.
After going behind, the Crimson kept creating chances but could not find the back of the net until just before the halftime break. With just over a minute to play in the half, senior forward Nico Garcia-Morillo levelled for Harvard with a stunning first-time volley from a tight angle just inside the box. Garcia-Morillo found space for the shot after first-year forward Ale Gutierrez picked out the senior’s run with a perfectly-weighted long ball, after battling to retain possession in midfield.
“Ale Gutierrez played a beauty of a through-ball. Then, once the ball popped up, it was the perfect height for a volley,” Garcia-Morillo said of the goal. “I didn't think twice and ripped it second post. Thankfully it went in.”
Bryant settled into the game in the second half as the Crimson’s early intensity declined somewhat throughout the match. The shot margin narrowed in the second stanza, with Harvard edging the Bulldogs 9-6 in shots, closing the gap from the Crimson’s 13-shot advantage in the first frame. Bryant almost stole the points in the 78th minute, as a flicked-on header from senior midfielder Jonathan Brackett off a long throw-in rattled the woodwork. Despite some close calls, Harvard stayed disciplined on defense throughout, dealing with long throws into the box from Bryant’s Talabi all afternoon.
Garcia-Morillo almost sealed a dream performance eight minutes into extra time, as the forward charged into Bryant’s defensive third and fired a shot at goal which beat Bryant’s goalkeeper, but the Florida native was denied by the crossbar, and play went on.
The game continued in this end-to-end fashion, with Bryant nearly breaking Harvard hearts just a minute after Garcia-Morillo’s chance. With ten seconds to play in 1OT, the Crimson cleared a cross to the edge of the box, only to see a Bryant shot come in and be saved off the line by junior goalkeeper Oskar Nilsson. The danger was not gone though, as Bryant headed the rebound on target for what seemed like a sure game-winner. Somehow Nilsson got up to make the save, keeping the game alive as the first period of extra time drew to a close.
“Obviously it felt great to keep us in the game and give us another period of extra time to try to win the game,” Nilsson said of the save. “Especially at that stage of the game and given that we had dominated that first period overall.”
Nilsson made six saves on the night and is now averaging 6.5 saves per game through two games this season. Despite his heroics in extra time, Harvard could not rally to find the game-winner.
“We managed to come back after conceding the first goal, and now our focus is to put on a good performance on Tuesday,” Nilsson continued. “We’ve been waiting a long time to play on our home field, and hopefully we walk off with a strong performance and a win.”
Harvard returns home to face Northeastern on Tuesday after playing its opening two games on the road. Meanwhile, the Huskies will be looking to pick up momentum from a 2-1 win over Hofstra as the cross-town foe enters the matchup with the Crimson. Tuesday’s game at Jordan Field will also mark the first men’s game played at Jordan in almost two years. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
— Staff writer Eamon J. McLoughlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.