Men’s soccer wins third straight
By Henry Arndt
Published on Monday, October 29, 2012
On Homecoming Saturday, the Dartmouth men’s soccer team defeated Harvard University, 3-1, at Burnham Field, led by two goals and an assist from striker Alex Adelabu ’15. In front of a home crowd of 1,242 fans, the Big Green (8-6, 4-1 Ivy) extended its win streak to three and now sits in a tie for second in the Ivy League.
“[Burnham Field] is an incredible atmosphere,” co-captain Kevin Dzierzawski ’13 said. “We’ve played at some of the biggest soccer schools — the University of New Mexico and University of Connecticut — and we’re right up there with them in terms of the fan support we get. There’s nothing better than playing in front of that kind of student section, that kind of environment, on Homecoming weekend, against Harvard nonetheless.”
Harvard (2-9-3, 0-4-1 Ivy) got off to a strong start, opening up the scoring eight minutes into game. The Crimson crossed the ball deep in the penalty area to midfielder Jake Freeman, who settled the ball with one touch and used his second to beat goalkeeper Noah Cohen ’14 to the post.
“It basically was a little bit of a slap in the face,” head coach Jeff Cook said. “It’s really difficult when you’re playing a team like Harvard — who is a good team but doesn’t have a good record — because somehow subconsciously you think it’s going to be an easier game, but it’s actually not. I think we responded well, and I’m really pleased because I think the team is mentally very strong and is growing in our belief in what we’re trying to do.”
After the first goal, the two teams engaged in high-octane back-and-forth play with no team possessing a clear advantage. Twenty-two minutes into the first half, midfielder Colin Skelly ’14 crossed the ball into the box to Stoian Nedelchev ’13, who took a shot on goal.
The shot deflected off Crimson keeper Evan Mendez directly into Adelabu’s path. Adelabu dribbled the ball toward the goal before guiding it into the net.
“The goalie probably thought I was going to shoot it first time, but I just controlled it for a bit and then slid it in,” Adelabu said.
Adelabu’s first-half equalizer proved important beyond its contribution to the overall score, as it seemed to vitalize both the Big Green players and the home crowd. Dartmouth dominated the remainder of first-half play, outshooting Harvard, 10-3, by maintaining possession and keeping pressure on the Crimson defense. The Big Green was particularly successful in creating chances off of set pieces and crosses into the box.
“They played a 4-3–3, so we wanted to expose the gaps in front of their outside backs as much as possible,” Dzierzawski said. “Once we saw how effective and how difficult it was for them to clear the balls that we were whipping into the box behind their back line, we made a few adjustments and tried to increase the number of balls we got into the box.”
The Big Green stuck to its game plan in the second half and continued to produce good chances off of set pieces. Twenty minutes into the second half, a header from a Dartmouth corner beat the Harvard keeper, only to be saved by a goal-line clearance by a Crimson defender.
“We wanted to see if we could control midfield,” Cook said. “I thought we were really effective when our wide midfielders came inside a little bit and were able to give us opportunities to drive at their back four. We wanted to try and force Harvard to do most of the defending because I think they proved that they have some good attacking players.”
After being temporarily subbed out, Adelabu stepped back in at the 76th minute before a Harvard corner kick. The corner kick was intercepted by a Dartmouth midfielder and was quickly moved up field for a counter-attack. Amidst some defensive confusion, Adelabu got a hold of the ball and sprinted up field, setting up a one-on-one with the Crimson keeper.
“Someone played a ball, so I was running to one side,” Adelabu said. “But I saw that the played ball got deflected, so I came back and it was right in front of me.”
The keeper was forced to come out in an attempt to challenge Adelabu, but Adelabu kept his cool, firing the ball into the far corner of the goal for to register his ninth tally of the season. Adelabu’s second goal of the game put the Big Green up 2-1 with only 15 minutes remaining in the contest.
With eight minutes left, Cook made another substitution before a throw-in in the Crimson half, swapping in forward Alberto Gorini ’16. After the throw-in, Adelabu took the ball up the right wing and brought it close to the right post. Adelabu’s positioning forced the goalie to make an attempt for the ball, but before the Crimson keeper could make any contact, Adelabu quickly passed it off to Gorini for the finish.
“I’ve been here for 12 seasons, and this is as deep a team as we’ve had, so [substitutions] can be used to keep the energy level up,” Cook said. “New players can come in just when the other team’s defensive group is thinking they’ve got it under control, and it gives them something new to think about.”
With the win over Harvard, the Big Green is now tied with Cornell University for second place in the Ivy League standings, with Brown University sitting in first. Cornell and Dartmouth have identical 4-1 league records, while Brown has a 4-0-1 record in league play. Dartmouth controls its own destiny, as its two remaining Ivy contests are against the Big Red and the Bears. On Saturday, the Big Green will travel to Ithaca, N.Y., to take on Cornell before returning home to face Brown on Nov. 9 in a game that could serve as a de facto Ivy championship game. Before then, however, Dartmouth will compete against the University of New Hampshire on Tuesday at Burnham Field, as long as Hurricane Sandy does not interfere.
No. 17 Cornell boasts a strong offense and is led by the Ivy League’s top scorer, Daniel Haber. Haber’s 17 goals are well ahead of Adelabu, who ranks second in the league with nine. The Big Green has experience on its side, though, as Dartmouth has beaten the Big Red five straight times, including last year’s 3-1 home win in a game that carried similar stakes to this year’s contest.
“It’s a game we need to win, and it’s a game they need to win as well,” Dzierzawski said. “They’re supposed to be very productive on set pieces, so in practice I’m sure were going to focus on preparing for those.”