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He's Finally Hearing a Few Words of Praise : Lyrics May Be Changing for Unsung Bruin Soccer Stalwart Eric Biefeld

October 30, 1986|RAY RIPTON | Times Staff Writer

Eric Biefeld is a senior economics major at UCLA and, as such, he isn't called upon to read much poetry.

But even if has not read any Sir Walter Scott, Biefeld would still be painfully aware of the meaning of Scott's lines about the indignity of being "unhonour'd and unsung."

Though he was a member of a UCLA team that won a national championship last year, Biefeld is a largely unhonour'd player in a sport that is largely unsung in the United States: soccer.

Oh, Coach Sigi Schmid and some of his Bruin soccer players enjoyed some national--and even on-campus--attention when they won the 1985 NCAA title, a first for UCLA in that sport.

The team made headlines not only for winning the championship game but also for the way they did it. The Bruins defeated American University, 1-0, in a record eight overtimes at Seattle.

All-American honors went to two Bruins: midfielder Dale Ervine, a senior last season, and defender Paul Caligiuri, then a junior and now a team co-captain. Ervine and Caligiuri also were named college soccer's most valuable players by Soccer America magazine.

Five seniors from the 1985 team were drafted by teams in the Major Indoor Soccer League--Ervine, Mike Getchell, Paul Krumpe, Doug Swanson and Dave Vanole. And Caligiuri was the only American selected to play in the FIFA/UNICEF World All-Star game last summer in Los Angeles.

Last year's champions caused such a stir on campus that more than 2,000 spectators showed for NCAA playoffs at UCLA. For regular-season home games, the crowds didn't top 500.

Biefeld, 21, played more minutes (2,426) than any other Bruin last year. His save on an American University attempted shot that came late in the long game enabled his team to finally pull out the win.

This year's UCLA press guide says that Biefeld was one of the main reasons why the Bruins shut out 11 opponents last year, including three in the playoffs.

Shouldn't his accomplishments have garnered him some recognition, say All-Far West, maybe? No way.

Like Caligiuri, Biefeld is a team co-captain. Like Caligiuri, he is a defender, and both are considered tops at keeping foes from getting off shots.

Unlike Caligiuri, who is recognized as the best in college soccer at his position of stopper or fullback, Biefeld plays at a sweeper's spot, roaming behind the other defenders as the last man between the ball and the goalkeeper.

Unlike Caligiuri, who had scored 15 goals and five assists in his career before this season and who has added one goal and four assists in 14 games this year, Biefeld seldom scores.

Until he broke loose and hit a goal in one of this year's games, Biefeld had scored only one other time in three previous seasons. This year he also has been credited with one assist, the first of his college career.

People notice the guys who put the ball in the net.

Biefeld would be comfortable at group meetings where no names are given. He would have nothing in common with overeaters, gamblers, debtors or alcoholics, but he does know what it means to be anonymous.

A 6-foot, 185-pounder, he starred in soccer at Edison High School in Huntington Beach and did win all-league and All-Orange County honors in his senior year there.

But being a soccer player at Edison High, a Southern California power in football, is like being a very small spot on the underbelly of a leopard.

He did play football at Edison in his senior year, but only after a friend on the team talked him into coming out for the squad. Biefeld was the team's punter, where you generally receive notice only when you screw up. And Biefeld, being consistent, went generally unnoticed that year.

It could be regarded as understatement, then, when UCLA Coach Schmid calls him "the most underrated defender in the entire country."

That reputation might be changing. Last February Biefeld was chosen for the first time as a member of the U.S. national team and played last summer at the U.S. Olympic Festival in Houston. And last weekend he was one of five Bruins selected to the All-Clemson Tournament team, won by UCLA.

Schmid long has recognized the value of his sturdy sweeper. "I think of all the players I've coached at UCLA, he has come closest to realizing his maximum potential.

"He is very dedicated and disciplined. He has a good psychological makeup in terms of preparing for games and playing. He's just an ideal player to coach."

Though he does not score, his strong defense often has allowed Caligiuri, the more celebrated player, to go for the goal.

"Because Eric is such a strong defender, it allows Paul the freedom to go forward as much as Paul does," Schmid said. "Because Eric is such a strong defender, we can use Paul in offensive areas. If he were not that strong, Paul would have to stay at home, and it wouldn't allow us to sometimes play one-on-one with our last defender."

Caligiuri concurs, and he adds that Biefeld is also improving at asserting himself on offense.

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