Following the lead set by the planet's best at the 1990 World Cup, the NCAA Final Four in soccer last December was a drab affair, with no more than one goal scored in any of the three games.
The defensive-minded, close-to-the-vest philosophy has become the prevailing mode in the college game, but Pete Caringi isn't going to fall in line now that he's part of the NCAA. Caringi was to be introduced as the new coach at UMBC today, and he promises to keep the attacking style that has served him for more than two decades.
"My whole life, that's the way I've approached soccer," Caringi said. "Attack: That's the way I played, the way I've coached. I'm not going to change now. Just because everyone else is playing the game one way doesn't mean that's the only way it can be done."
Caringi, 35, was a record-setting scorer in high school at Calvert Hall, and, unless the college reinstitutes athletics, he will hold forever the University of Baltimore standard for career goals.
For the last 10 years, during which his record was 170-27-8, his Essex Community College teams were known for their wide-open style. He carried that over to the professional game last summer, when he took over as head coach of the Maryland Bays and that team set an American Professional Soccer League record for goals in a season.
Caringi's stock rose as the Bays won the APSL playoffs and nearly won the North American title.
A native of East Baltimore who still lives in Highlandtown, Caringi is something of a homebody, and the only other Division I job he ever interviewed for was at Maryland, in 1984. This time, he was the leading candidate for the Retrievers' job ever since John Ellinger resigned last November.
"He's been a winner at everything he's done," said UMBC athletic director Charlie Brown, "and he's done it with class. He's very popular throughout the state, and he has the respect of other coaches. I've been told his teams come ready to play."
Caringi and Brown are still finalizing the terms of a three-year contract. There are some teaching duties, and Caringi might be involved in promotions. He said the salary falls short of what he was making from Essex and the Bays combined, but added "that was like working two full-time jobs."
"It's a tough decision, leaving those two positions," Caringi said, "but it's a rare chance to coach at a Division I school. UMBC is a state school with a great location, and the potential is unlimited."
The Retrievers had the equivalent of less than three scholarships this year, and Caringi said that money most likely will be spent locally.
"I've always been proud of the soccer played in the state of Maryland," Caringi said. "Nine of the Bays' starters last summer were from here. At Essex, we began to recruit regionally, but basically we won with Marylanders. Too many of Maryland's best players have usually gone out of state, and we'll appeal to their pride.
"UMBC hasn't even hit the Baltimore area that hard. There hasn't been a recruit there out of Calvert Hall in the last 10 years, but I phoned Bill Karpovich there this morning [yesterday]. A lot of people haven't heard from UMBC, but they're going to hear from me."
Caringi said it is late in this recruiting season, but he has a number of players back from a team that went 11-9 last year. Darius Taylor, a senior-to-be from Meade, is one of the best backs in the region, and the top point-getter was Jason Dieter, who happened to play for Caringi at Essex.