Glory days, well, they'll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days
- Bruce Springsteen, 1984
Temple Men's Soccer has had many "Glory Days" in its fabled history that includes two National Championship teams, three NSCAA Hall of Famers and countless wins. On Friday night, the Owls will look back fondly on its past when the 1978 Cherry and White squad is recognized on the 40th
Anniversary of one of the greatest teams in program history.
Perfection is what the Owls strived for that season, as the veteran-laden team came together on the pitch and nearly achieved.
Coming off a season that saw the team's loss total grow from one defeat in 1976 to five setbacks, Temple was hungry to get back to its old self.
"We had taken our lumps the previous year," said Temple goalkeeper Jeff Kraft. "That was mostly due to losses from graduation. In 1978, we returned a lot of players which was a key to our success."
A sophomore on the '78 team, Kraft, who ranks sixth all-time in NCAA history with 534 saves, recalls this special parliament of Owls very well.
"Clearly it was the talent on the team (that made it special)," he said. "I look at the defensive players on the team as I was the recipient of their efforts. I get a lot of credit, but I had a lot of incredible players in front of me. That is what I remember most about that season."
The defensive backs in front of Kraft that helped lead the team to nine shutouts in 17 matches were senior Jack Whitehead, juniors Bill Eiding, who earned all-conference honors, and Steve Reice, and sophomore Tim Weglicki. That quartet limited opponents to a mere 101 shots on goal during the campaign with only two teams scoring twice against Temple all season.
"With these amazing players in front of me, all I had to do was come up with two or three big saves each game. That was it," added Kraft.
Offensively, the Owls had first team All-American George Lesyw to lead the attack. The senior forward scored nine goals and assisted on six others to top Temple with 24 points. Drafted by both the North American Soccer League and the Major Indoor Soccer League following the season, the Philadelphia native and Cardinal Dougherty product still ranks sixth all-time at Temple in goals scored (26) and points (67).
"Just a tremendously skilled player," said Kraft on Lesyw. "When he had the ball it was like it was glued to him. He could dribble through a lot of people and he could shoot the ball so well. It's hard to think of any weakness in his game."
Junior midfielders Joe Steffa and Mike Gorni provided the Owls with added offensive punch. Both all-East Coast Conference selections, Steffa tallied eight goals and three assists while Gorni contributed four goals and four assists. Senior forward Carl Garlitos also found the back of the net four times.
Temple's unbeaten regular season was not without challenges. In the second match of the season it was a lone goal by Lesyw that led the Owls to a 1-0 win over Rider at Temple Stadium, a prelude to the ECC Championship in November.
After relatively easy wins over Pitt, Villanova and Hofstra, the Owls would squeak by La Salle, a team that would later earn a berth in the NCAA tournament, 3-2. Scott Land, Lesyw and Steffa accounted for the Cherry and White tallies in the road match.
Steffa's fifth goal of the season helped TU to a 2-1 win over American with Lesyw's lone goal lifting the Owls to a 1-0 road win over Rutgers four days later.
Two matches later it was Gorni who provided the heroics with the only goal in a road win over West Chester to push Temple's record to a perfect 10-0. Five different Owls, including Herb Viniarski's lone score of the season, provided the team with its most lopsided victory, 5-0 at Drexel.
Garlitos provided all of the offense with two goals in a 2-0 win over St. Joe's to push the record to 12-0.
Temple's win streak came to a halt against Penn State with Weglicki scoring for the Owls in the 1-1 draw against the Nittany Lions.
The Owls could not find the back of the net in their next match at Penn, but neither could the Quakers as the regular season ended in a scoreless tie. It was the first of three straight shutouts for Kraft, who ended the year with a still-standing school record nine shutouts.
The next match was the ECC Championship which pitted the East Division champion Owls against the West Division champion Rider Broncs. Kraft made seven saves and Lesyw found Whitehead, who scored for the second time on the season, to lift Temple to the conference title, 1-0.
Steffa scored the Owls' only goal in their rematch against the Nittany Lions in the first round of the NCAAs, but it was Eiding who stole the spotlight. The Owls' defender shutdown All-American center forward Jim Stamatis, heading balls away from the Penn State striker, who entered the match with 13 goals. Kraft, who made nine saves on the day, batted a drive from Stamatis over the crossbar with seven minutes to play to help preserve the win.
With the win, Temple was rewarded with a second round match at Philadelphia Textile. Like the Owls, the Rams were unbeaten (15-0-0) and ranked first in the region with Temple right behind. Textile had two prolific scorers to watch, senior All-Americans David MacWilliams (20 goals and 15 assists), who would go on to coach the Owls (2000-17), and Adrian Brooks (18 goals and 13 assists). The winner would earn a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Playing at Textile's School House Lane Field, over 3,000 fans came to watch the two Philadelphia juggernauts compete with spectators literally sitting in overhanging trees to view the epic battle.
Textile got on the scoreboard first as Brooks, a Northern Ireland native, finished a pass from MacWilliams off an indirect free kick from the five-yard line to give the Rams a 1-0 lead in the 28th
The Owls answered back 10 minutes later as freshman midfielder John Halko scored his first collegiate goal, and just the 12th
against Textile's defense all season, to tie the score.
Temple's defense kept the high-scoring Textile attack at bay over the remainder of regulation and the teams headed into sudden death overtime.
Brooks came up big again, taking a nice feed in the box by Kevin Salamon, in the fifth minute of overtime to send the Owls to their first defeat of the season.
"No one expected us to be competitive with Textile and we could have won that game with a couple of breaks here or there," said Kraft, who had four saves in the match.
To those who followed Temple men's soccer, it was no surprise that the Owls were able to have such a magical season. All one had to do was look to the sidelines at the architect of the program, head coach John Boles.
In his fifth year after taking over for Hall of Famer Walter Bahr, Boles had posted double figure wins in all five seasons and finished the 1978 season with a 59-9-2 record. An All-American player for another Hall of Famer, Pete Leaness
in 1966, Boles compiled a 220-110-23 overall record in 21 seasons at the helm. He guided the Cherry and White to 13 ten-win seasons, including a record seven straight from 1974 through 1980.
"He was such a gentleman," said Kraft. "He was a great coach and a great guy and that is what made it fun for us."
So the Owls finished the season, 14-1-2, and ranked 12th
in the final national poll. No Temple team has ever topped that win total, but two others under Boles (1983, 1985) would match it.
Truly they were Temple "Glory Days".