Men’s Soccer Silences Spartans, 1-0, in Home Opener

Men’s Soccer Silences Spartans, 1-0, in Home Opener

Jake Freeman scored the game-winner for the Crimson against Michigan State (Gil Talbot).

The Harvard men's soccer team picked up its first win of the season, taking down Michigan State, 1-0, Friday afternoon at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium. The win is Harvard's first over a Big Ten opponent, as the team moves to an even 1-1-1 on the year.

The Crimson was aggressive from the get go, racking up four fouls through the first 15 minutes, but keeping the MSU chances to a minimum. Harvard's 4-3-3 formation started to produce offensive pressure, even though the first push resulted in an offside call. Harvard finally broke through in the 17th minute, beginning the push from its own goal box. Matt Sheeleigh collected a ball along the right sideline and lifted a lead pass to Jake Freeman, who was running stride for stride with a Spartan defender. The ball ricocheted off the Michigan State player and Freeman took and touch a bounced a shot past the MSU keeper for the first goal of his collegiate career.

The teams stayed tight through the end of the half and Harvard was able to hold its 1-0 lead going into the break. The teams finished the first stanza tied, 2-2, in shots on goal.

The Spartans had their best chance at the equalizer early in the second half off a broken play by the Crimson defense. Goalie Evan Mendez came out of his box to play the ball with his feet, but a heavy touch was picked off by a Michigan State forward. Mendez fell back and handled the ball well outside the goal box, preventing the Michigan State player from scoring, but picking up a red card as a result. The Harvard defense held true on the ensuing free kick to eliminate the Spartans' pressure.

Playing down a man, Harvard shifted its formation into a more defensive shape and staved off Michigan State pushes throughout the end of the game. Replacement goalie Joe Festa looked poised in goal and the Crimson defense held true down the stretch to seal the 1-0 final.

Harvard is back in action Sunday as it welcomes SMU to Cambridge for a 1 p.m. contest.