Men’s Soccer Hosts International Matches: Big Green scores pair of victories
By Olivia Durr, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, April 23, 2012
The Dartmouth men’s soccer team returned to Burnham Field this weekend for its first games since the fall to host the Haitian national team and a Cape Verde Select Team from Massachusetts in a pair of games benefitting Partners in Health relief efforts in Haiti. Dartmouth won both matches, prevailing 1-0 against Haiti on Friday before defeating Cape Verde Select on penalty kicks following a 3-3 tie on Sunday.
The match against Haiti was part of the team’s five-day New England benefit tour to raise money to support the relief efforts in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake that rocked the nation.
Jamie Bayona, director of Global Health Programs and Practice at the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science and the co-founder of the Peruvian branch of Partners in Health, said that soccer is a good way to raise awareness about Haiti and Partners in Health.
“I think that it allows us to express our solidarity for a country that has been suffering so much for many years,” Bayona said. “It is a good way, and I would say a fun way, to get together and be aware that there is something wrong there that needs to be fixed.”
Last year, the Big Green fell 2-1 to Haiti in an exhibition match, but coming off an Ivy League championship, Dartmouth defeated its foreign opponents, 1-0. Captain Kevin Dzierzawski ’13 was able to play against Haiti for the second year in a row.
“Last year was an incredible experience,” Dzierzawski said. “Being able to play against a national team in front of your home crowd made for an unbelievable atmosphere.”
The atmosphere was similar this year with a packed stadium and a loud crowd. Haiti also played against Harvard University on Sunday night, falling to the Crimson, 1-0.
“The Harvard soccer coach and I were speaking last year about just trying to do something positive with spring season,” Dartmouth coach Jeff Cook said. “We wanted to do something to bring some visibility to the ongoing recovery work.”
The match on Friday against Haiti was the Big Green’s first game since its first-round NCAA tournament loss to Providence College in the fall.
Alex Adelabu ’15 produced the match-winning goal 63 minutes into the game, receiving a pass from teammate Patrick Murray ’14 in the box and sending a powerful shot into the upper left corner.
“I was really delighted,” Cook said. “Our play was much better in the second half. Alex’s goal was tremendous and Teo Larsson Sax [’13] played an excellent game in the back.”
The Big Green almost made it 2-0 in the dying minutes of the match. Stoian Nedelchev ’13 found himself in a one-on-one situation with the Haitian goalkeeper, but his chip was not high enough to evade his opponent. The intensity of the game decidedly shifted after Dartmouth’s goal, as a minute later Haiti received a red card after a tackle, reducing the team to 10 men for the remaining 25 minutes. The first half, meanwhile, saw few shots on goal, as both teams adopted a short passing style of play.
“[Short passes and a creative style of play] is a characteristic of Haiti soccer, like the Caribbean and Brazilian teams,” Haiti manager Henry Robert Dominique said. “The team from Dartmouth was more focused, more realistic. They played forward and they played to win.”
Dartmouth’s defense had to work especially hard, as Haiti frequently ventured into the Dartmouth penalty area, only for the Big Green defense to tighten before Haiti could manage a shot. Both teams struggled to control possession in midfield early in the second half until a Haiti foul and subsequent yellow card provided Dartmouth a free kick in the 54th minute. The effort was blocked, but the Big Green maintained increased possession, which was rewarded nine minutes later by Adelabu’s goal. Goalkeeper Noah Cohen ’14 held strong against the Haitian attack as the second half wound down.
“It was a fantastic achievement to come out and play against an international team like Haiti,” Cohen said. “I think we were a bit rusty having not played as a new team yet, but I think we’re getting better, week by week, and it shows.”
After hearing about the exhibition game last year, a few members of the Boston-based Cape Verde Select Team contacted Cook asking to be added to this year’s Partners in Health weekend play. So on a rainy Sunday afternoon, the Big Green came back from its game against Haiti to win again, this time on penalty kicks following a 3-3 tie.
Nine minutes in, Dartmouth took a 1-0 lead through the efforts of Dzierzawski.
“I think Kevin Dzierzawski had an excellent game in the first half,” Cook said. “I thought he was very good today. Very, very good decision-making. He’s developing into one of the best players in the country at his position.”
As the rain picked up and the temperature dropped, neither team could string together enough passes for a quality scoring opportunity. The ball moved quickly against the wet grass as both teams struggled not to slip, with the Big Green taking a 1-0 lead into halftime.
Cape Verde picked things up at the beginning of the second half and scored its first goal in the 56th minute. The Blue Sharks sent a cross into the Dartmouth box and got a head on it, slipping it past keeper Sean Donovan ’13 into the upper right-hand corner to tie the match at 1-1. Dartmouth tried for a counter attack, but Cape Verde’s relentless pressure resulted in another goal in the 62nd minute.
“I didn’t think we handled it well once we went behind,” Cook said. “I thought we panicked and then conceited two more goals and found ourselves in a tough position. We could have handled that better I think.”
Dartmouth’s defense faltered again in the 74th minute and the Blue Sharks scored after a player volleyed home a cross from the right wing.
The rain worked in Dartmouth’s favor for its second goal. With 10 minutes remaining, the Cape Verde keeper struggled to control a ball near the goal, and it slipped from his hands, allowing Brian Joseff ’14 to rush in and set up a tense finish.
Dartmouth dominated play over the final 10 minutes and was rewarded for its efforts, equalizing in the final minute of stoppage time. Joseff headed the ball home for his second goal of the game, sending the match to penalty kicks.
Donovan emerged as the hero, saving Cape Verde’s fourth shot to secure the victory for the Big Green.
“I love penalty kicks,” Donovan said. “During the 90 minutes of the game, there are countless random factors that can lead to a goal. It’s the only play in a soccer game that those confounding factors can go out the window and all you personally have to worry about is making the save for the team.”
Coming off a successful weekend, the Big Green has a positive outlook as it seeks to defend its Ivy title this fall.
“The team has viewed this spring as an opportunity to develop individually and as a team, to find a personality and a new identity that will carry us into the fall,” Donovan said. “The success of this weekend is a testament of the work of the team, and I think we have a core group of players that will allow us to hit the ground running in September.”
Cook also noted the mental fortitude of his players.
“In soccer, you’re coaching the tactics and techniques, but it’s also the mentality, so you compliment the players on staying focused and getting the goals back and then winning on penalties,” he said “It should be a great confidence booster.”
Dartmouth wraps up its spring season against Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact on Sunday.
Staff writer Manisha Apte contributed reporting to this article.