"Since Usiyan is so well marked most of the time, putting him out on the wing confuses opponents and it takes a defender away from the goal," says Steinbrecher. "It creates space for other threats." Indeed, another Nigerian, Kingsley Esabamen, a free-roving defender, has exploded with 12 goals this season.
But the heart of the team is "Tommy" Usiyan. He has scored more than 100 goals in his college career, despite playing only three games last year before being sidelined with a knee injury. A hot pro prospect, Usiyan has the bearing of an African prince and the easy smile of an undergraduate. He remains shyly modest about his abilities and the attention he attracts.
"The only thing I don't like about ASU is the cold," he says quietly, shivering on a crisp, 50� fall day. "The coach makes us very warm, though. It is very difficult to gain the respect of Nigerian players. We are very headstrong. But Hank has done it. We respect him very deeply."
Just how does a guy from Brooklyn recruit hungry Nigerians to the Blue Ridge Mountains? "They recruit us," says Steinbrecher. He presents a letter, neatly handwritten, from a young hopeful in Africa. It reads in part: "Sir, I humbly beg to apply to your fine and famous school. I am a Nigerian of dark complexion, about 6'8" tall and 24 years of age. My ambition is to be in your school and bring glory to your team. Fervently...."
"I get 10 or 12 of those a month," Steinbrecher says. "It's almost a form letter they all use. In this case I have to send a form letter back. Since the guy's 24 and the NCAA says each year over 20 takes a year off eligibility, he can't play here. But God, if he's really six-eight, can you see him in goal?"
Steinbrecher's current Nigerians suggest players to him, of course, but he moves cautiously. "Africans are very difficult people," Steinbrecher says. "They can all play soccer, but most of them hate to train and can be very egotistical. I listen to their recommendations and then make the $30 phone call to Africa."
On Friday, Steinbrecher's Appys got aboard a bus and headed south, visiting first the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. They stomped the Moccasins 9-2, but seemed preoccupied. On their minds was the next day's game in Huntsville against Alabama A&M, the nation's second-ranked team. Southern Conference schools like Chattanooga and V.M.I. are hardly tests for the Mountaineers. Steinbrecher has upgraded his schedule each year and now routinely faces such powerhouses as Clemson, South Carolina and the A&M Bulldogs, who had handed ASU its only previous defeat this season. Last Sunday the Bulldogs bit again.
On the pitch next to a cow pasture, the A&M squad did its usual pregame warmup, which includes a Zulu war dance—the 11 starters are all either African or Jamaican. The teams then played scoreless and tightly marked soccer until the last minute of the first half, when the Bulldogs snuck through for a goal. After the resumption they added two more, and that was that.
"Remember the movie Zulu?" said Steinbrecher with a sad smile. "Where the tribe left the British alive at the end? Well, today they kept on coming."
If ASU beats strong N.C. State this weekend, it will clinch a bid for the Southern NCAA regional playoffs anyway and once again will get a crack at Alabama A&M. Not bad for a program that has only 4� scholarships—the NCAA allows a maximum of 11 for soccer—and none too soon for a team that must replace seven graduating starters. "It's tougher than ever," Steinbrecher says. "What can I offer a kid from Nigeria or New York or St. Louis that a big school can't? I'll have to think of something." Well, he can always fall back on his Red Hook hustle and his redneck charm. In the meantime, he'll keep an eye on the windmill on Howard's Knob.