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It's as if the Philadelphia Flyers all went out and bought figure skates. Or maybe Andrew Young signed up for an introductory lesson in double talk from Henry Kissinger.
Finesse has not been a word commonly associated with Harvard soccer, but last week's Wesleyan game indicated that a group of freshmen may be about to change the old image.
Freshman Walter Diaz's header, which set Lee Nelson up with a breakaway goal for a 2-1 lead, and Nelson's heel flick to freshman Michael Smith breaking toward the net are two plays that come to mind.
"In the past, someone would do a stepover and fake out everybody," including his own teammates, Coach George Ford said last week after the team's 5-2 victory over Wesleyan.
A trio of freshman starters are largely responsible for this new style of play. Smith, from Leicester, England, and Andy Kronfeld sandwich sophomore Steve Yakopec at midfield, and Diaz joins three returning lettermen--Nelson, Harold Martin and Matt Bowyer--up front.
Ford was pleasantly surprised by the freshmen's performance in the Wesleyan game. "You're never sure how they will do in competition," he said.
He felt that they had adapted to each other's styles quickly. "They played their own game really -- the heel flicks... I think it's a sign of the times," Ford said.
The only inexperience that Ford could see came from midfielders Kronfield and Smith. who were up and down the field and didn't pace themselves.
The influx of good young players has also given Ford more depth with which to work. There are strong subs at every position. Ford feels that now he can get away from teaching the basics, and spend more time on strategy. "You can coach your game and have them understand it."
So the team is definitely improved over the 1976 version. The forwards have shown they can put the ball in the net, and the wingers, Bowyer and Martin, have been staying wide, allowing Smith and Kronfeld to help out on the attack.
Goalkeeper Fred Herold has regained the ability to come out and challenge opponents one on one, which Ford feels he lacked last year.
The big question now is the backs. None have had previous varsity experience on the back line. Junior Jim Langton leads the group from his sweeper position and Ford says the "defense has a lot of respect for him." He is joined by two sophomores--converted midfielder John Sanacore and Lorenzo diBonaventura. If yesterday's UMass game is any indication, though, the backs are not much to worry about.
Harvard's biggest worry is that the rest of the Ivy League has not been standing still either. Brown defeated San Francisco, last year's NCAA champions, Princeton beat Brown, 1-0, and the Tigers lost to Dartmouth this season.
Brown has lost three-year All-American Fred Pereira to graduation, but Ford still calls them the team to beat. He says that three or four teams have a shot at the Ivy title.
And Harvard? "I like to think we can win our games at home. If we can pick up just one away from home I would term that a successful season," Ford said. That would make the Crimson 4-3 in the Ivies. Considering the team faces Dartmouth, Princeton and Penn at home, that is a tough assignment.
But UMass was rated third in New England before it fell to Harvard and, you know, I haven't heard much from Andrew Young lately.
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