The Harvard men's soccer team's Wednesday exhibition against Haverford College marks the anniversary of the first intercollegiate soccer game, held back in 1905. To put the date in perspective, that is the same year that the Russians celebrated their first revolution--nothing too big, just a footnote in history, but one which eventually led to some big changes.
Not to get too far off the subject, that's exactly what the Crimson booters need this year. A revolution. Nothing too big or out of the ordinary, just a little something to get the ball, so to speak, rolling. The Harvard soccer team needs to score goals, and given the team's recent record, that would be some revolution.
Take, for example, the 1978 season. More than adequate defensive play kept the Crimson in nearly every game, but the squad was shut out six times en route to a 5-9-1 final record.
With a strong core of returning veterans, last year promised to propel Harvard up into the heights of the Ivy League standings. The defensive corps again did everything that could have been asked or expected, allowing a meagre 14 goals in 15 games.
The offensive unit, however, failed to rise to the occasion down the stretch. After riding the crest of a mid-season five-game winning streak to a 6-3-1 mark, the offense collapsed, and failed to score any goals at all in the last five games. The season ended with the team sporting mediocre 6-7-2 record.
With a little bit of luck, as the song goes, things should be different this year. Two of the team's trademarks last season were an awesome ground game, which permitted the Crimson to control the flow of most contests, but an anemic inability to put the ball into the net.
This year, with one more year of experience behind it, the offense should ripple the twines at least a little more frequently. Led by lithe junior winger Mauro Keller-Sarmiento and Mike Mogollan, the offensive corps could provide the elusive difference between a 1-0 loss and a 2-1 win.
Offensive success will depend on the continued outstanding play of Keller-Sarmiento, and the return to form of striker Walter Diaz. Diaz starred two years ago as a freshman, but his offensive production had tailed off in the last two campaigns.
Coach George Ford's seventh season may see Keller-Sarmiento at an uncustomary center position, as Ford seeks a more potent offensive combination. Captain Michael Smith, an outstanding mid-fielder, should also provide some needed spark in the opposing zone.
A little offensive improvement could prove the difference between the middle of the Ivy League pack and a championship squad. Last year's captain, John Sanacore. Sanacore, a four-year starter and twice an all-Ivy selection, will be sorely missed at the left fullback position, but sweeper Peter Sergienko and his backfield mates should pick up the slack.
Frank RiCapito, the only freshman on last year's squad and highly regarded in his own right, should step into a starting fullback spot, and Don Rung should round out the backfield.
At midfield, things look equally bright. Smith, John Duggan and Andy Kronfeld, who have played together for two years, should keep the ball out of the Harvard end at least as proficiently as last season.
It is in the goal that the stars really come out for the Crimson. Perhaps the best news for the squad is the return of Peter Walsh, who recorded a .8 goals against average as a freshman in 1978, and then took last year off. Walsh will be backed up by J.V. standout Benny Erulkar, as well as freshman Phil Coogan. With a few goals, this team could go a long way.
A key element in any Crimson prosperity this year will have to be an injury-free season. Although the squad may be able to cope with a few injuries in the backfield, the forward line must stay healthy. The disintegration of last year's squad began with an injury to Keller-Sarmiento, which led to the atrophy of the team's offensive firepower.
The tests will come early for this talent-laden squad. Defending Ivy champion Columbia rolls into Cambridge for an important league ontest September 20. Even with the loss of several key veterans, the Lions will vie for the crown. Following the Columbia match, the booters must face UMass and nationally-ranked UConn in the first month of the season Realistically, there is not a team in the Ivies that the Crimson cannot beat.
The new season boils down to the question of revolution, an offensive revolution. Nothing too earth-shattering, just a few goals here and there. With a little offense, this could turn out to be the year of the Harvard booter. After all, it has been a long 75 years.