For the vast majority of sports fans in this country, soccer is a foreign game, played by men running around kicking a funny spotted bail, and leaping into the air to spear the bull with their heads. To most of the world succer is the game, a fast-moving, exciting sport that combines a great deal of the physical contact of football with the skill and finesse of hockey. Slowly, however, the game is catching on in America.
Amateur soccer seems to be flourishing, especially at the high School and college level, where play is quickly becoming more sophisticated and less physical than in the post, But Harvard fans, who have to cope with a manual scoreboard and utterly inadequate stands, have yet to profit from this soccer boom. Most games are so crowded that spectators are forced to view the Crimson strong around the perimeter of the field two or three deep.
The fans over at the Business School may find themselves on the edge of their rents, cops, I mean crazing their sacks on the sidelines, a bit more this fail, however, as Harvard hosts three Ivy teams, all capable of breaking the Crimson's three-year unbeaten skein. In my predicted order of finish these three, and the also runs are:
Pennsylvania: The Quakers, presently ranked fourth in the nation and the defending Ivy champs, were hurt less by graduation than any other team, and should in fact be a stronger team than last year. Although its recruiting practices are questionable at best, Penn is, by all indications, the team to best again this fall. The Quakers are loaded up front on offense, and on defense. Starters Larry Houston and Steve Baumann return at forward, but may be overshadowed by sophomore star George Otieno, who has already collected mine goals in Penn's first three games. The defense, which has allowed but one goal all season, is impressive. Starters Bill Straub, Don Ries and John Gribbin anchor a first-rate unit. Behind them is goalie Jim Miller, himself a top-notch player. Penn is loaded.
Harvard: The Crimson represent a startling contrast a Penn in that most of last year's team has left Cambridge, while most of the Quakers are still eating cream cheese in Philly. Because of Penn's experience and talent, the Crimson, who have dropped to tenth in the nation, can be rated no better than second, and could be beaten by a as many as three Ivy teams, although such a prospect is distasteful. A fine offense, led by All-everything Felix Adedeji and Chris Papaganis, and sided by the addition of sophomore Bent Hinze, and Dragan Vujovic, has yet to face a solid defense, and it remains to be seen whether the unit will continue to click. The defense, while recording two shutouts, may be vulnerable against a high-scoring machine like Penn, and injuries to captain. Rick Scoot, Brian Fearnett, Ric LaCivita or Henry Sideropoulos could prove fatal. Goalie Steve Kidder is good, but whether he can come up with big saves is another moot point, and only time will tell. Without crippling injuries, this year's Crimson squad could go a long way. With injuries it could have problems finishing among the top three.
Cornell: Like Penn, the Big Red are a largely senior, veteran unit. All-Ivy forward Victor Huerta has earned a reputation as a dirty player. but he is good, as is All-Ivy fullback Bill Murray, with second team All-Ivy Federico Rojas, like Huerta junior college All-American, forward Chris Agoliati, and fullback Matt Mauro, Cornell with challenge Penn and Harvard for the title. The Crimson hold a trump card against each, however, playing both teams at home.
Brown: With the addition of the junior college All-Americans, the Bruins had hoped to take a good shot at Penn for the title, but they came up short last weekend in Providence as the Quakers won the mud bowl 3-1. Brown plays an American-style game, extremely rough and physical, and is capable of knocking off Cornell or Harvard.
Princeton: The Tigers, although improved over last years, have virtually no chance of breaking the top four, and will have to be content with fifth place. They are good, but not that good.
Dartmouth: The Big Green, as it likes to be called these days, is literally green. A sophomore-dominated team, it lost three of their first four, but will improve as the season progresses, but not nearly enough to challenge.
Columbia: After making a brief flirtation with a first division finish last year, the Lions have returned to the clear, and are likely to stay there, Harvard meets them in Crimson's Ivy opener Saturday.