Ho-hum, says the casual observer. 6-7-1, another mediocre season for the Crimson men's soccer team. Not so, says the careful scrutinizer. For there is not a team in the northeast, perhaps in the country, that could step on the field against the 1979 Harvard eleven assured of victory.
Consider the evidence. Let's look for a second at Harvard's performance against non-Ivy teams. The Crimson played four weak non-league opponents: Wesleyan, Amherst, Williams and Bowdoin. It shut out three of them and tied Amherst 1-1 in miserable weather more suited to polarbear hunting than soccer.
Harvard played four strong non-league opponents: the number one, two, three and twelve ranked schools in New England. Overall, in those four games, Harvard scored three times and had five goals tallied against it by teams that have a combined 53-17-6 record on the year.
If Harvard had disappointments they came in Ivy League play. An early season 1-0 loss to Cornell, a 3-0 defeat at Brown to snap its five-game winning streak, and a scoreless tie against Penn ruined the Crimson's chances of fighting Yale for the Ivy runner-up spot behind awesome Columbia.
Harvard actually had three mini-seasons within its full season: a 1-3-1 beginning, an unblemished 5-0 string in the middle of the year, and an 0-4-1 stretch to close out its schedule.
Harvard's most persistent weakness throughout the year proved to be ineffective mid-field play. Only captain-elect Michael Smith of the half-backs seemed equal to the critical task of controlling the pace and direction of each game.
Thus, when the offense had trouble early in the season--as Ford juggled the forwards in an attempt to find the right combination--the Crimson fullbacks played under a lot of pressure. Though they played well, a number of their fine efforts went for nought in low-scoring games.
Only after Ford switched sophomore forward Mauro Keller-Sarmiento into the middle from the wings did the Harvard offense suddenly ignite, score 11 goals in five games, and, in combination with a defense that allowed but one goal in that stretch, carry the Crimson through its five game win streak. Keller-Sarmiento and Mike Mogollan played brilliantly at times with help from Alberto Villar on the wing.
Still, the mid-field problems were never far from the surface during this streak. At one point Ford gave freshman Frank RiCapito a chance to earn a full-time job at center-half, but RiCapito's inexperience showed through as he had trouble reading the flow of the game.
Ford's other midfielders, Andy Kronfeld and Don Rung, had the occasional good game, but neither consistently showed the quarterbacking ability that is so vital if half-backs are to help build the offense and continually feed their forwards.
When forwards Keller-Sarmiento, Mogollan, Steve Yakopec, and Dave Eaton all suffered debilitating or half-debilitating injuries or sickness at various times after the Bowdoin game, the zing went out of the Crimson offense, and Harvard did not score in its last five games.
The end of season dry spell cannot obscure the quality of Ford's eleven, however. With perhaps two more players, and far fewer injuries, it would have been a superb team. A center-forward who could worry opposing goalies in the air would have complemented Keller-Sarmiento and Mogollan's play on the ground and added an extra dimension to the Crimson attack. One other fine halfback might have given the team the dominance it needed in midfield.
No coach could complain about the work of Harvard's fullbacks. Captain John Sanacore, tough, hard-working, well-skilled on land and above it, will probably move up from the all-Ivy second team to the top Ivy squad. His mirror image at right fullback, Lorenzo DiBonaventura, played almost as well as Sanacore, while Duggan and Sergienko in the middle quickly learned to play well together and stop opponents from going for Harvard's jugular and drawing blood.
Goalkeeper Blood improved in the nets immeasurably from last year. He learned how to come off the line and take the ball out of the air, and his kicking ability improved slowly as time went on. He never lacked diving agility or the courage to come out and block fierce shots only inches off the foot of opposing forwards.
So before you yawn with boredom at the exploits of the Crimson's 1979 soccer team, recognize them for what they were: a fine team. And if Harvard can land an English 18-and-under international next year whose application is purportedly lying in Byerly Hall, watch out.
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