Everything seemed to be leaning towards a Northeastern loss in Tuesday’s matchup versus Harvard. The Crimson were the superior team physically and dominated the shot total and corner kick tally. But the scrappy grit and pure heart of the Huskies proved to reign victorious, as the home squad snuck out a 3-2 victory over their crosstown rivals.
The game started off strong for Northeastern. Within the second minute of the match, they won a penalty off of a handball in the goalie box from junior James Fahmy, who got his first start of the season for the Crimson. Graduate student Ryan Massoud tucked the shot away into the bottom right corner of the net.
It took just two minutes for Harvard to respond. A quick pass from sophomore Alessandro Arlotti at the edge of the box to senior Martin Vician gave the Crimson the opportunity they needed. Vician took a quick step around the Northeastern defense, found a sliver of open space, and powered a shot into the bottom left of the goal, just past the diving reach of redshirt junior goalie Colby Hegarty. The goal tied the game up at one, and caused a huge shift in momentum in Harvard’s favor that would continue to prevail throughout the majority of the match.
Vician’s speed was punishing to the Northeastern defense all game, as he and his fellow forward, senior Nico Garcia-Morillo, cut their way around Husky players. Northeastern’s center-back pairing, graduate student Ole Kjørholt and junior Fabrizio Cubbedu, were overwhelmed with the physicality and precision of the Crimson front line. With help from sophomore wing-back Kristján Gunnarsson, Harvard tallied a total of 14 corner kicks throughout the entirety of the game, in comparison to Northeastern’s one.
The pressure from Harvard’s attack continued to build, and the Huskies shortly found themselves behind. In a deja-vu situation to his last goal, Vician received a pass and stepped into open space to slam a shot into the lower left corner of the net, putting Harvard in the lead in the game’s 19th minute and giving the senior from Slovakia a brace. The crisp, clean passes of the Crimson had once again buried Northeastern’s defense. Harvard had complete control, and the Husky defense struggled to keep their heads above water against the lively Crimson attack.
Northeastern finally found its spark in graduate student Omar Da Naia, who took to the field in the 32nd minute, and freshman Morris Matthews, who joined play in the 36th minute. Da Naia’s impact was instant, immediately opening up the left side of the field and finally giving Northeastern’s attackers viable opportunities. Matthews’ insertion to the game breathed signs of life into the midfield, adding creativity to the Huskies’ passing that had been greatly lacking all game. By the end of the half, it looked like Northeastern finally had some level of control.
“Some guys came on in the first half and did well, and we stuck with them,” Northeastern head coach Rich Weinrebe said following the game. “Morris Matthews really stepped up, that was his first minutes of the year. Omar Da Naia’s finally healthy, so we decided, ‘Okay, we’re gonna ride the hot hand a little bit, get some guys that are hungry for more playing time.’ They showed up really well.”
The second half saw a much more even matchup than the first, with no goals being scored until the 79th minute. The first 30 minutes of the half proved as such, as Northeastern upped their physicality by a large margin. After only committing one foul in the entirety of the first half, that number jumped up to nine by the end of the match. The increase in physical play was a necessary change, as the balance of the game seemed far better as the Huskies began to play with more strength.
With Northeastern’s physicality increasing, Harvard found themselves on the back foot in their own half, needing to commit fouls of their own to compete with Northeastern’s pressure. Graduate student Arhiá Simons won a foul off of Arlotti on the right wing, and the Huskies then lined up at the top of the box to receive Simons’ cross. The Northeastern veteran, however, decided to try something different. Instead of sending the ball into the air for a teammate to intercept, Simons took the shot himself much closer to the ground. The ball took a quirky bounce that completely baffled senior goalkeeper Oskar Nilsson, and Simons’ attempt just snuck by the diving Crimson keeper to tie the game at two.
Northeastern’s defense gained an immense amount of confidence throughout the second half. They were far less timid in their challenges, with the star of the second half being Cubeddu. The veteran defender was everywhere on the field, seemingly singlehandedly halting the Harvard attack in its tracks.
“Fabri is an absolute warrior,” Weinrebe said. “We kind of knew that about him when we were looking to bring him in. He just does all the things that don’t really show up on the stat sheet. He puts his body on the line, he’s a team-first guy, and he’s done a great job for us.”
With Northeastern’s defense now completely solid and the attack possessing far more creativity, the tides had completely shifted by the end of the game — but time was running out. The seconds ticked down in the final minute of play as the Huskies made one final push for the win. A few clean passes through the middle of the field put the ball at the feet of graduate student Jacob Marin-Thomson, who had given himself just enough space to take the shot.
Silence took hold as Marin-Thomson’s shot sailed through the air. The ball curled its way towards the top corner of the net, struck the bottom of the crossbar, and bounced in with exactly 30 seconds of play remaining, giving the Spaniard the game-winner.
“It felt like everything stopped,” Weinrebe said about the moment. “I haven’t jumped around like that in a long time.”
Ultimately, the pure grit of the Huskies won out, eking out a 3-2 victory over Harvard. Northeastern showed immense levels of heart throughout the game and saw the match all the way through to the end, their toughness proving to be victorious.
“It’s all our mentality. We just gotta keep grinding, moving forward,” Marin-Thomson said. “Coach always told us to never give up… It’s a group of 35 players, and I feel like this is a family.”
The Huskies’ upcoming three-game road trip will kick off Saturday at 7 p.m. against Hofstra. Stay tuned to WRBB for coverage following the action.