Sour Grapes in the Aftermath of an Overtime Thriller

The Soccer Notebook

Excuses, excuses.

Connecticut men's soccer Coach Joe Morrone had a lot of reasons to be proud of his players after Sunday's 1-0, overtime loss to Harvard in the NCAA New England Regional Championship.

The Huskies had played what was arguably their best game of the season, holding the fifth-ranked Crimson scoreless over 105 miuntes of action.

But Morrone chose not to focus on his team's laudable effort at the post-game press conference. Instead, his remarks centered on the number of foreign players on the Crimson.

"[Harvard has] a lot of great individuals," Morrone said, referring to the international players. "I'm not convinced they beat us as a team. It just shows that foreign players still make a difference in the game."

In a game marked by nine cautions. Morrone blamed "European style" of the Crimson contingent for the rough play.

"When you're playing against players with so much experience abroad," Morrone said, "that's how you play. You keep bumping people off the ball, it disrupts the game."

UConn moves quickly on goal, corner and free kicks in order to keep the game flowing. Morrone called Harvard's system "destructive soccer," and, like with most of his post-game remarks, prefaced his explanation with the phrase "when you have foreign players."

"When you have foreign players that have that skill and technique, they make things happen. Harvard plays the type of game where they're always bumping people off the ball. That's a European style of play. It causes a continual stoppage of play."

Hall of Fame: Crimson netminder Stephen Hall has been earning nothing but praise for his recent performances in goal. His diving save of Huskie Chris Rief's shot with seven seconds remaining in regulation was termed "world-class" by more than one observer. And Rief called him "an absolutely outstanding goalie."

Sunday's 1-0 blanking of UConn was Hall's fifth shutout of the season, pushing his goals-against average to 0.93 and his save percentage to 84 percent.

Do it Again, Dave: Dave Kramer's father and brother made the trip up from Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., to watch Sunday's UConn game, and Dave didn't disappoint them.

It was no surprise that the sophomore forward scored Harvard's lone goal. Kramer has found himself in the right place at the right time all season. Sunday's tally gives him 11 goals and two assists on the season, for a team-high 24 points.

Stupid Question of the Week: "Were you happy with the save?"--reporter at Sunday's post-game press conference to Hall, referring to his amazing one-fisted block that sent the game into overtime.

"With seven seconds to go, I liked it," Hall replied.

Overheard: Harvard senior sub Ryan Chew to Crimson Coach Mike Getman before entering the UConn game late in the second period: "I only score in the close ones, Mike."

Getman: "Well this is pretty close."

Classic Mistake: Apparently the Huskie fans aren't aware that Latin is no longer a required course at Harvard.

When the Crimson crowd shouted the familiar "Goalie...Sieve" taunt during the first half of Sunday's contest, one UConn fan turned to his neighbor and asked: "What are they yelling?"

The deluded Huskie supporter replied: "I don't know. I think it's in Latin."

Heeling the Devil: Last year's champion Duke Blue Devils--who defeated Harvard, 3-1, in the 1986 semifinals--have already been eliminated from the NCAA tournament. The Tarheels of North Carolina burned the favored Devils, 2-0, in first-round action last weekend.

North Carolina has been the hottest team in the country in the past two weeks. The Tarheels upset Clemson, second-ranked Virginia, and North Carolina St. to earn the Atlantic Coast Conference title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney, where they knocked out Duke.

Where'd everybody else go?: Harvard, which played the New England Championship a week early to accommodate this Saturday's Yale game, is the only tournament team without an NCAA contest this weekend.