By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com

On Monday night, the Syracuse University men won their first College Cup, defeating eight-time champion Indiana University in a shootout.

Some five decades ago, I covered the SU varsity team, two years after it was playing at the club level – for the Daily Orange, the student newspaper.

I was a junior at Syracuse after transferring from Nassau Community College, where I wrote about Bruce Arena (future U.S. men’s national team and MLS coach) and Bob Montgomery (future Adelphi University coach and Red Bulls Academy director).

Football was the big fall beat and game coverage was passed around from writer to writer.

So, wanting to just write and improve, I wound up covering the soccer team and did some cross country articles for the paper as well.

And that was back in the stone age. We wrote our stories on typewriters (kids, ask your grandparents what they were). There were no computers and no internet. Cell phones? Ha! If you had a phone in your room, that was a big deal.

Stone age, indeed.

My first game was on Sept. 26, 1972.

To my horror when I reached the field near Manley Field House, there was no one on the field, only coach John Allen, a graduate student, searching in the adjacent brush, trying to find a soccer ball that was booted out of play.

It seemed kickoff time for the game was moved from 2 p.m. to 10:30 a.m. because Colgate, the visiting squad, had a typing error in its schedule. Many soccer fans showed up at the field at around 2 p.m. and left frustrated because of the re-scheduling.

I had arrived just after the game was over, but fortunately, Allen was there to help me build a story.

This was the first few graphs:

Not all was lost.

The Syracuse soccer team had just been beaten, 3-2, by a late Colgate goal in the second half. On top of that the team had also lost a seventeen-dollar soccer ball in the brush around the field.

From this, one would think the squad to be downcast, at least spiritually and economically, but they weren’t. Colgate happens to be one of the top-rated soccer teams in central New York. To play them even is a thing in itself.

That story wouldn’t exactly have been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, but it got the facts right.

Later in the story, I quoted an optimistic Allen, whose team rallied from a two-goal deficit.

“I think that Colgate expected an easy game,” he said. “To come back twice showed that the boys have courage, self-possession and cool.

“It’s very heartening to see a young an experienced [team] come the way they did. I think they played very well on the whole.”

I wound up writing several more stories about the team, which finished the 1972 campaign with a 4-6-1 record, its best finish at the time.

The final game of the season called was called eight seconds early because a University of Buffalo player players wanted to fight SU’s Stu Maier. Referee Jim Welter called the game on what he termed “gross unsportsmanlike conduct.”

As several Buffalo players uttered obscenities at the game official, team captain Bob Hayes argued in vain.

A few days later, I wrote a column about how underfinanced the soccer team was. The team’s budget was a measly $3,000 a year.

In the past five decades I believe the budget as grown by leaps and bounds.

Back in 1972, however, winning a national championship was never on anyone’s minds. Just improving and surviving in upstate New York soccer was the main priority.