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Season Preview: Men's Soccer Looks to Reach NCAA Tournament for Fourth Straight Year

After winning 12 games and advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2008, the Crimson returns seven starters, including two All-Ivy League first team selections this season, as Harvard will look to remain among the nation’s elite.

Guided by Jamie Clark, the Virgina B. and James O. Welch ’52 Head Coach for Harvard Men’s Soccer, who is entering his second season at the helm of the Crimson, the team boasts a roster of 27 players, including 18 returnees. “We’re starting our second year, so hopefully the whole team will be prepared and on the same page,” Clark said. “Last season, we did a lot of teaching and now are fine tuning on what we expect from the players.”

“We lost a lot to graduation, but have a rising senior class with two bookends – co-captain and forward Andre Akpan and defenseman Kwaku Nyamekye – who will help keep us in every game,” Clark continued.

Between the pipes, sophomore Austin Harms played in 13 games last fall, registering six shutouts and posting a 9-3 record. He ranked 11th in the nation as a freshman with a 0.55 goals-against average and was a two-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week honoree. Newcomers Brett Conrad and John Bryant will join the team this fall, adding depth and skill at goalkeeping.

Nyamekye, a two-time All-Ivy and NSCAA All-Northeast Region pick, heads a Crimson defense which allowed only 18 goals in 18 games a year ago. He also scored three goals, including two game winners, coming against conference foes Yale and Brown. “Kwaku is one of the best defenders in the nation and should be a steady force for us at defense,” Clark said. Sophomore Baba Omosegbon, who also tallied three goals last fall, will also play in the middle of defense.

Junior Robert Millock, who saved the Crimson’s 2008 season by blocking a shot at the goal line in Harvard’s NCAA first-round game at Massachusetts, will continue to be a steady presence at right back, while sophomore Tim Linden, junior James LaGreca and freshman Scott Prozeller will compete for the other starting spot at defense. Juniors James Pelletier and Dan Perl will also see significant time at the back position.

At midfield, senior co-captain Brian Grimm will anchor this position after starting 17 of 18 games last fall. “Grimm is one of the most underrated players in the Ivy League and a true asset to have on the field,” Clark explained. Senior Adam Rousmaniere, who scored two goals and assisted on two other scores last season, classmate Desmond Mitchell, who played in 15 games in 2008, and junior Alex Chi, who handed out four assists a year ago, provide veteran leadership and experience. Sophomore Ben Tsuda and Omosegbon will also see time at midfield, while sophomores Sho Chaudhuri, Tsiu Moorosi and Jamie Rees were all members of last year’s squad and will bring added athleticism and depth to the Crimson.

Up front, Akpan, who was recently honored on the Hermann Trophy Watch List, returns as Harvard’s all-time leading scorer (97 points) and assist leader (27). A two-time All-American and three-time All-Ivy League choice, Akpan, one of the most decorated in conference history, led the Ivy League with 24 points last fall and finished with 10 goals and six assists overall. The forward also tallied the game-winning goal in double overtime at Massachusetts in the first round of the 2008 NCAA tournament.

“Andre is one of the best forwards in the country. We need to find him a partner to play with him up front, whether it be one person or by committee, I think we’ll score a lot of goals,” Clark said.

The options for the Crimson at this position include Chi and Rees and freshmen Brian Rogers and Zack Wolfenzon.

The Crimson will play a difficult schedule this season, taking on five teams ranked in preseason national polls, including Boston College, Boston University, Wake Forest, Connecticut and Dartmouth. “We have made the NCAA tournament the last few years, but we were not battle tested enough,” Clark said. “We have improved the schedule to play several teams with deep postseason experience, and combined with our always challenging Ivy slate, we will face some of the best teams in the country.”

Photo courtesy DSPics.com.