The signs were all over the place. You couldn't walk past a bookstore or an eating place near Chestnut Street without seeing one.
PENN. ranked fourth in the nation, versus HARVARD, ranked third in the nation. They were placards, painted red and blue, advertising what was not only going to be the showdown for the Ivy soccer title, but a preview of the NCAA tournament later this month.
It has become customary for Penn to go wild over any sport in which it is currently doing well, and soccer is no exception this fall. In Franklin Field last Saturday morning, almost 7000 spectators watched Harvard and Penn, two superb soccer teams, fight it out on the Quakers' Astroturf. They were watching collegiate soccer at its best, and they knew it.
The Crimson is almost shamefully talented. Coach Bruce Munro has several reserves that would be welcome starters on most other Ivy teams. And until Saturday. Harvard had shut out six consecutive opponents. A partial reason may have been the 4-3-3 alignment which Harvard has installed as its system. Even when the versatile formation puts an emphasis on defense, the Crimson forward line of Pete Bogovich, Solomon Gomez, Charlic Thomas and Phil Kydes scores anyway.
Harvard's halfbacks can move like forwards. Its fullback unit is impregnable. And goalie Bill Meyers is a sure All-Ivy performer, if not All-American.
So Harvard brought its unbeaten team to Philadelphia last Saturday for its first real test of the season. And Penn was the opponent Harvard needed.
The shutout string dissolved in the third period, when Meyers was beaten on a long free kick. And although after the second period Harvard was never in any real danger of losing. Penn was bringing out the best in the Crimson with an aggressive, long-kicking game that gave the fullbacks plenty of business. Long kicks will rarely defeat a strong opponent, especially if he is playing a 4-3-3 defense. But Penn was almost forced into that strategy by the Harvard front line, with Gomez and Thomas continually threatening to break loose on the wing.
It would have been foolish to experiment with Harvard's prowess in the forward unit, but it was equally as futile to attempt to beat the defense. Gomez put two goals past and Kydes headed in a third during a 1:48 period in the second quarter. Penn never recovered.
So now only three Ivy teams stand between the Crimson and its first Ivy title since the days of Chris Ohiri in the early '60's. Princeton will be tough. The Tigers fought Penn with determination before losing 2-1 two weeks ago. Brown is weaker than usual. but it has never been an easy match. Yale has been decimated by injuries. but may be able to put something together.
So the road is by no means clear. A loss to any one lets Penn into the Ivy race again, and will hurt the Crimson's third-place ranking in national polls.
And even after the Ivy title is won, if it is won, there will be the regional matches to decide entrants for the NCAA tournament in San Jose. Vermont, Springfield and Brown will most likely be the New England competitors. Penn will be one of the four representatives from the Middle Atlantic region.
And if Harvard makes it to San Jose. San Francisco State and St. Louis, two perennial soccer powerhouses. will be waiting there. The Crimson clearly has a long way to go.
But there is a loose cohesiveness, not unlike the mood of the Crimson cross-country squad, that surrounds the team. Last year a writer for the Daily Penn-sylvanian remarked that Harvard had the only forward line in college soccer that was not on speaking terms with each other. Such is not the case this year.
Saturday evening, when the squad had an extra hour before catching the flight to Boston, it headed for the electric soccer game in Philadelphia International Airport, Within moments. Kydes was scoring on Richic Locksley with shocking regularity. The boys take the game seriously.