Harvard, many would agree, had no business staying in this game. This is no small slight to the Crimson, who performed admirably, but for large stretches of play, Boston College men’s soccer dominated chances and put shots on net, generally making life difficult for Harvard keeper Matt Freese. The Crimson often played with 10 men behind the ball and resorted to lengthy runs from centre backs or individualistic efforts from forwards up top as their means of offense, settling often for low-probability shots to no avail.
Despite this, for the 10th time in 10 games, the Eagles found themselves locked in a close game on the scoreboard.
In a matchup that mirrored the disappointing draw with Holy Cross earlier in the season, BC controlled the pace of play but couldn’t put its opponent away. Against Harvard, it never got a chance to take its foot off the gas, instead protecting a one-goal lead from the second minute on. A few scares aside and after countless scoring chances of their own, the Eagles held on, beating their nearby rivals, 1-0.
It was a physical, back-and-forth affair that came down to the final minutes, not the result many would expect between a more rested Atlantic Coast Conference team fresh off of a ranked win and a Ivy League team that was running on a day less of rest and had dropped two in a row.
Still, the one-goal outcome was no surprise to those who have seen BC (4-3-3, 2-3 ACC) play this season. Through 10 games, the Eagles have scored 14 goals and conceded 13. They’ve drawn three times and have claimed each of their wins by the stressful one-goal margin. Similarly, the three losses—which came in a row against a trio of ranked opponents—all were by a single goal. Harvard (3-8, 1-1 Ivy League) was the latest foe in a lengthy list of games that BC has had to sweat out, a streak of results that has left the BC coaching staff contemplating its outlook.
“I think it’s a double-edged sword,” Eagles associate head coach Bob Thompson said. “On the one side, it’s tough. It feels like a grind being in those games, mentally it can be grueling. At the same time, it prepares you really well for the playoffs. If you can tough it out and win a 1-0 game, that’s the kind of mentality you want going into the playoffs.
It was, as many would expect given the recent history of this local rivalry, Eagles forward Simon Enstrom who came up with the lone goal. What nobody would’ve expected, though, was that the assist came from the opposite end of the pitch. BC goalkeeper Antonio Chavez-Borelli, after scooping up a loose ball, alertly rolled out to his right and saw Enstrom at the midline, shadowed by one defender.
Chavez-Borelli promptly sent a drop kick deep into Crimson territory, artfully leading Enstrom into a scoring chance. The senior—who scored his first career hat trick against Harvard a year prior—caught up to it with ease. He eventually took a pair of touches, in quick succession, and took a hard right-footed shot that created its own space in the slight gap between Freese’s body and arms.
Enstrom attributed the through ball to something the duo had been working on throughout the year and a half they’ve played together.
“We wanted to be fast in transition,” the forward said, smiling after recording his fourth game-winning goal of the season. “He put in a beautiful ball. I just [said] thank you and scored.”
Thompson was equally impressed with the assist by Chavez-Borelli, chalking it up to alertness from the sophomore goaltender who won the starting job earlier in the season over Joe Fryatt and will likely never relinquish it.
“Tony read that their back line was high on the field,” he said. “It was a good read and a good ball by him to put Simon in behind early. That was obviously fortunate in a game like this to get up early.”
The rest of the match was a physical and tense 88 minutes—but one in which the scoring chances were dominated by BC. The Eagles were able to pepper Freese, who made eight saves, in a variety of ways. Kristofer Konradsson attempted several volleys that either skipped wide or were deflected, Callum Johnson nearly set up a sprinting Trevor Davock on a designed set piece run, and Heidar Aegisson almost connected on a goal from an Enstrom cross at the end of the first half.
Eventually, the narrow scoreline started to result in an uptick in intensity. It was apparent throughout that the referees were going to allow a certain degree of physicality, but it eventually boiled over on a particularly hard slide tackle from Harvard’s Taner Dogan. The Crimson midfielder was carded and also started a scrum, which prominently featured BC’s Abe Bibas sprinting some 30-odd yards to confront the junior. After a few minutes of chaos—in which the Eagles’ David Longo was dragged away from the action by Davock—play resumed.
The incident proved to only increase the intensity down the stretch, but no further cards were issued and BC hung on for the win. Harvard ultimately had one real scoring chance, but Chavez-Borelli answered the call—he dove to his right to turn away a Rory Conway header after a well-executed set piece.
The win pushed the Eagles above .500, and also gave them confidence in their ability in controlling a game. Yes, it was only decided by a single goal, but as Enstrom said after, it was “one of those games where the ball just doesn’t want to go in.” BC was the better team and got the points it needed, and the two-game win streak will likely give it some confidence entering a tough matchup against No. 2 Wake Forest on Friday night.
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / For The Heights