It's been 11 years since Mike Dillon last played soccer for Tottenham Hotspur of the English first division. But the British tradition is still alive and well at Georgetown University.
Dillon, the Hoyas' second-year coach, has taken one of the weakest college soccer programs in the area and made it respectable by emphasizing a physical, defensive, British style of play.
Dillon had no idea what he was getting into when he accepted Georgetown's coaching offer in August 1981, less than a month before the season started. The Hoyas have not had a winning season since 1968, and the sport is viewed as minor league at the university. There are no soccer scholarships; the field is patchy and uneven.
"I really don't know why I said 'yes' when I was offered the job," said Dillon, a part-time coach who also owns a Capitol Hill restaurant. The 32-year old London native came to the United States to play for the Montreal Olympiques in 1972 and later starred with the Cosmos and Washington Diplomats before he retired with a knee injury two years ago.
Despite spending most of last season getting to know his players and vice versa, Dillon managed a 4-8-4 record, the most victories by a Georgetown squad since 1971. This year, the Hoyas are 2-3-2 but have developed into one of the better defensive teams in the area. Except for a disastrous loss, 4-1, to American U. last week, Georgetown has allowed only five goals in six other games and is capable of holding its own against established Division I schools.
"I was a defensive player, and I believe in a strong defense," said Dillon. "I have always believed that even if you don't score any goals, you won't lose if you don't give up any."
Though they know he has little coaching experience, Georgetown is committed to Dillon. "We're interested in building a competitive soccer program, but without scholarships there is a limit to what we can accomplish," said Jeff Fogelson, the assistant athletic director who hired Dillon on the advice of former Dips Coach Gordon Bradley. "But the won-loss record has been very good. We used to be regarded as an easy mark on most schedules, but now we command respect."
Dillon made some mistakes in his first season. He cut two returning players, Pete Skelly and Bill Flynn, but later reinstated them after they asked for a second tryout. Skelly ended up winning the team's most improved player award, and Flynn was named the most valuable.
Despite having to pick from among whatever students try out, Dillon has made Georgetown into one of the fundamentally sound teams in the area. He has also developed a cohesive starting unit by refusing to use more than one or two substitutes.
"I don't believe in unlimited substitution," said Dillon. "It's not the way I was taught to play the game. Only two of the 14 years I played pro did I know I had a starting position. If you substitute a lot, players will know that they'll get their 10 minutes of playing time and that's all they will practice for."
Dillon uses a conservative, defensive style of play, which perfectly suits the Hoyas. Georgetown has one of the area's top goalkeeping tandems in Don Wall, a sophomore who made 122 saves and allowed only 1.07 goals per game last year, and his backup, Alfredo Rabassa, who posted a 1.33 goals-against average. At fullback, Skelly, sophomore Istvan Gyenis and senior Pete Ziobro are solid.