For years, college soccer in the Washington area has been basically a one-team show. The team, Howard, has gotten to the top with foreign players.
Still using foreign players, Howard remains king of the hill. But last Saturday the team's crown was tarnished badly. George Washington stunned coach Lincoln Phillips' team with a 2-1 upset. The key man for the COlonials were goalkeeper Jeff Brown - an American. Brown is from Gonzaga High School.
G.W. is still composed mainly of foreign players. Brown, who has 13 shutouts in two seasons, is one of four Americans on the team. But the Colonials, now 9-2 on the season, are not the only local team making large strides on the soccer field.
Maryland, which beat GW, 2-1 earlier in the season, has put its program together over the last three years using Americans.
When Jim Dietsch arrived to toach at Maryland three years ago, he found a solid, though unspectacular, program, one built on foreign players.
The first thing Dietsch did was to recruit AMericans in large numbers, mainly from this area.
"I heard a lot of things when I decided to turn the program toward Americans," Dietsch remembered. "After that first year (the Terps finished 6-5-1), there were a lot of people who wanted my job."
He remained and last year the Terps improved their record to 7-3-2 and received an CNAA bid. THey also tied Clemson, breaking a four-year Atlantic Coast Conference winning streak by the Tigers.
This season, the Terps are 8-3, Sophomore goalkeeper Larry Howell has five shutouts. If they can win their two games this weekend against Duke and North Caroline - a feat Dietsch thinks is far from impossible - the Terps will play Clemson Sunday, Nov. 6, at home for the ACC title. The last time the TIgers faced a serious challenge for the conference championship, Pele was just another four-letter word in this country.
Most other local schools are almost exclusively recruiting Americans.
"I think it's a proven fact that American kids are excellent athletes."
American coach Pete Mehlert said, "If you give them the same training and techniques that foreign kids get they're going to be as good or better.
"When I came here (six years ago) I realized that, because I didn't have much scholarship aid to work with, recruiting American kids would be more practical.
"Right now, the high school soccer in this area is as good as any in the country. If I could get all the kids I recruit in this area I would be able to compete with any team in the country."
Mehlert has 23 Americans on his 25-man roster this season. And, although his record is a disappointing 5-7, the Eagles had three winning seasons the last five years - after having had only one other winning season in its history.
Catholic, George Mason, and Georgetown also are building their programs around Americans. Tuesday, the Cardinals upset American, 1-0, their biggest win in several seasons. Although Catholic is 3-7-1, coach Jim Varsa thinks he is headed in the right direction with 15 players returning in 1978.
"There's no questioning the improvement American high school players have been making," Varsa said. "The coaches are better prepared now. They can teach the skills that are needed and give the kids the fundamentals they weren't getting in the past."
All the local coaches are recruting in the area now and with good reasons. Prince George's Community College has perhaps the area's top offensive threat in Bryan Winstead. Dietsch wants Winstead to spend his last two seasons at Maryland.
Gary Etherington signed with The Cosmos a year agoa right out of Mt. Vernon High School. The colleges are hoping to beat the pros to the next Etherington.
The strength of high school programs Washington and Baltimore also can be seen at Loyola of Baltimore, two-time NCAA Division II champion with an all-local team, and conqueror of Division I champ San Francisco, an all-foreign team, earlier this year. Montgomery Rockville and Essex have two of the top junior college programs in the cast again using local players.
"I'm going to sign only about three kids this year," said Dietsch, "and if I have my way they'll all be local. If I can get the kids I want right here in Maryland, we'll be able to play with anyone."
Three years ago, a statement like that would have sounded ludicrous.
"The high schools ansd colleges should be able to provide the pros with an excellent feeder system in the next few years," said Gordon [WORD ILLEGIBLE] , new coach of the Washington Diplomats. "I think as the coaching improves, the quality of play will improve."