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1990 Final Four
So Close
The 1990 Scarlet Knights
National Finalists, 20-3-2 Overall
Atlantic 10 Champions
All-Americans: Bill Andracki, Alexi Lals, Steve Rammel
Rutgers was the only team to score a goal in the 1990 semifinals and championship match. The Scarlet Knights were also the only back-to-back 20 win team in the final four.

The storyline of the 1990 Scarlet Knights began to develop on October 5, when near tragedy struck the squad. After a 1-0 win at Rhode Island, which moved the side to 7-1-2, the spiritual leader of the team, Alexi Lalas, fell ill. Doctors revealed that the tall redhead has a severely abscessed appendix, which could have been fatal if diagnosed any later.

Alexi Lalas

Injuries to Lino DiCuollo and Bill Andracki had interrupted a 5-0 start to the season, but their temporary loss seemed minuscule to this situation.

Coach Reasso had only one day to think about his approach to altering the lineup. He put Jeff Zaun at sweeper back, and a host of others would fill in at the midfield.

When many thought the team would crumble, Rutgers played its most tactful and intense soccer. Legitimate talk of the national championship began when Rutgers absolutely dominated UCLA in the MetLife Classic, winning 2-1 against the top-ranked Bruins.

Three days later, on October 17, Rutgers blanked arch-rival Seton Hall, 3-0.

That week spearheaded a streak of over 600 consecutive minutes of shutout soccer, a time that spanned six matches. Bill Andracki, Jeff Zaun, Chris Beach and Mike Miller were the stars of the nation's second-ranked defense in goals allowed, as Rutgers set its sights on the Atlantic 10 tournament title, a trophy that had eluded the team for three seasons.

Rutgers shutout George Washington for the second time in the year, winning the semi-final match 2-0. It set up a Rutgers/Penn State final, which had been the final in A-10 soccer for the first three tournaments.

Penn State took home the title in those three games, and it looked like the jinx would continue when the Nittany Lions took a 1-0 lead into the lockerroom at halftime. However, as he had done most of the season. Steve Rammel took over the game. He absolutely demanded the ball, evened the match in the 67th minute, and assisted on the go-ahead goal which was scored by Dave Mueller.

Steve Rammel

His second goal of the game clinched the 3-1 win, and the effort capsulized the kind of season he had. He was the nation's 11th leading scorer, and when Lino DiCuollo was slowed by a bruised ankle, Rammel stepped up to become one of the most dangerous strikers in the nation. He scored two or more goals in a game six times, and Rutgers did not lose a game in which he scored. The target of brutal double and triple teams all season, Rammel never wore down. He would lead the Scarlet Knights into the NCAA Tournament as the hottest striker in the country.

Lalas also returned to action as he miraculously healed and recuperated in a month. In Rutgers Stadium, the Scarlet defeated Adelphi and Dartmouth to advance to the final four, being held for the first time at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Rutgers drew Evansville, the nation's top-ranked and lone unde

feated team. A first-half goal by Mike Miller would be the only scoring in the match, and the 16th shutout of the year highlighted defeat of the Aces, the second number one team to fall to Rutgers in 1990.

That set up the showdown with UCLA for the national title. The match was scoreless through regulation time, and it stayed that way through four overtimes. In the shootout, Rutgers had a 1-0 lead, but could not hold it. The Bruins hit the net four times to Rutgers three, and UCLA claimed their second national title.

Were they the best team there? The only team to score a goal in the tournament was Rutgers, and they did not allow a goal in 240 minutes of play. Certainly, the Scarlet Knights could feel good about their season, considering the adversity that faced them.

They can also feel good about taking a big step towards their ultimate goal, the national title.

To help them achieve their goals for 1991 are eight returning starters.

The Knights' strength is on defense, where two of three backs are returning along with Bill Andracki in goal, who register 17 shutouts in 1990.

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