In the Pros, Ost is Still the Most

Herz So Bad

The American Soccer League's (ASL's) Pennsylvania Stoners, already decimated by injuries, had only about eight healthy bodies left, as gangling Ronnie Ost loped toward the goal during an offensive drill. A pass, a return pass, and Ost turned his head back to watch his teammate's shot. Moments later, Ost dropped to the ground, tenderly gripping his right knee. He'd run straight into the post.

Ron Ost (rhymes with post) is not a pretty soccer player to watch; he is tall and lanky; his long arms and awkward running style make him seem better suited to playing goalie than wandering around the middle of the field; he can't juggle the ball on his feet a thousand times; and evidently he doesn't always look where he's going. But Ron Ost is no longer eligible to play for Harvard because he plays in the ASL. Ron Ost is a good soccer player.

It took Ost some time to convice the Harvard coaching staff of that fact. Despite entering Cambridge with a soccer resume that included being captain of Pennsylvania's Freedom High School Team, and earning All-State and Regional All-America honors, Ost did not get a varsity job. While fellow freshmen Diaz, Smith, Villar and Kronfeld moved up, Ost toiled for the J.V.'s earning plaudits like "Ost is the Most" from the local press.

He somewhat mysteriously did not earn an invitation to Harvard's pre-season soccer camp the next year--but after a few phone calls joined the team anyway. After a strong camp showing "Ostie" languished on the bench for the first three weeks of the season. But in a game against perennial power U.Conn, he got his chance. Ost made the most of it.

For the rest of last season Ost brought desperately needed stability to a sometimes porous Crimson defense. Playing in front of sweeper and captain Jim Langton, Ost proved himself not with desperation runs and sliding tackles but with careful, contained play. Using his head on the soccer field--both physically and mentally--Ost looked to be one of the mainstays of the Harvard defense for the next two years.


However, with his April 28 signing of an amateur contract with the professional Stoners, Ost lost his Harvard eligibility. He gained entrance into a league which may not be the NASL but is still populated by the likes of English second and third division players and Eddie Firmani, former coach of the Cosmos. The ASL is no bush league.

But Ronnie Ost is comfortable in that league. Despite a bruised knee which resulted from the unfortunate incident described above, Ost started most of the Allentown teams' games last year at center forward, center half, or right fullback. He recovered from a sprained ankle in time to enter the playoffs at center forward--matched up against the Columbus Magic's 6-ft., 4-in. central defender Daniel Mamman--a tribute to Ost's strength and toughness.

He scored his first professional goal in the Stoners final playoff game of the 1979 season, the league semi-finals, which his club lost on the basis of a penalty kick shoot-out.

In March, Ost will sign a second contract with the Stoners, this one a professional, professional contract. From that point on, presumably, the drinks will be on Ron.

Ost will be flying to various ASL cities to join the Stoners each weekend when their season begins in the spring. He will be rejoining what he calls "an emotionally tight" team, all but two of whom have gone through the American college system. "You had to watch your step on the team; if you did something wrong, you'd never hear the end of it," Ost says. Naturally enough, he took a lot of abuse, or "stick" as the team called it, for running into the post. One of the more literate members of the team made up a song about Ron;

Ron Ost, Ron Ost, Ron Ost,

He hit the post.

That's it. All right, so the guy's no Shakespeare.

And Ron Ost may be no Pele--no silky smooth movement, no Oscar-winning imitations of a gazelle. No, just good, solid soccer--the kind of play that should see him hitting the post, or just inside of it, with something other than his knee in the upcoming ASL season.

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