Looking every bit of 18 years old, Cosmos defender Jeff Durgan sounded like a wily veteran as he explained the crucial call involving Washington's Ken Mokgojoa and himself on a play that cost the Diplomats a victory over the Comos yesterday.
"I went to clear out the ball when he (Mokgojoa) cut me down," said Durgan, who also made a brilliant save of a Johan Cruyff shot in the first half. "Anyone looking at the play could see it was a foul. The referee had to call that play. I can't say it was deliberate but when I went up, he went under me."
With 3:53 remaining in regulation time, and the score tied, 1-1, Washington's Alan Green was free on the sideline and bounced a shot toward the goal. Durgan tried to clear just as Mokgojoa came up to try to steer the ball in. Cosmos keeper Hubert Birkenmeier was beaten on the play and the ball dribbled into the net for a goal and an apparent 2-1 Dip lead.
But official Gordon Arrowsmith signaled a high kick, dangerous play on Mokgojoa and referee Toros Kibritjian ruled it was no goal.
Mokgojoa admitted making contact with Duran but said both "were going for the ball."
"It was a very bad call," said Mokgojoa. "My leg hit his as we went for the ball. I touched the ball a little just before we fell. I didn't agree with the referee."
Neither did the majority of the partisan fans. Several of the Washington players stormed toward Arrowsmith, who also was attacked by a fan. Seconds later, Arrowsmith dropped to the ground when he was hit on the head with an object thrown from the stands. He was administered first aid and resumed his work.
Dip Joe Horvath was given a red card for pushing Arrowsmith and Cruyff was given a yellow card (he drew one earlier for verbal dissent). Both were already out of the game, having been substituted for earlier in the second half.
Carmine Marcantonio also was hit with a red card for tossing a towel in Kibritjian's face after the game. All three players will be suspended for one game.
Seconds after the Dips' Robert Tarusci missed his shootout attempt to give the Cosmos a 2-1 shootout victory, a horde of fans rushed onto the field. One jumped at Durgan, who was booed lustily all game for his sometimes over-aggressive defense on Green. The rookie from Takoma, Wash., immediately swung at the attacker before stadium security police broke up the melee.
"Ever since that guy ran out on the field to get (Andranki) Eskandarian (Cosmos defender) in Fort Lauderdale, I made my mind to defend myself," said Durgan. "This guy ran out to get me or maybe Hubert, I don't know. But if anyone runs out of the stands, he's going to get flattened. That's for sure."
Durgan nearly knocked himself out making a dazzling save of a Cruyff shot in the first half. Cruyff, who repulled a muscle in his leg later in the half and will be out a week to 10 days, stole the ball from Carlos Alberto and started toward the Cosmos' goal. The Dips' million-dollar midfielder juked Birkenmeier off his feet and had nothing but open net in front of him. Just as Cruyff shot, Durgan slid in to stop the shot but his momentum took him right into the post.
"I hit everything, my neck, head, face, shoulder. Every part of my body hurt," said Durgan, flexing his sore shoulder. "I saw him take the shot and I just tried to deflect it away.Luckily, I didn't hit the post solid. I sort of slid around it as I hit the ground."
That was one of three "almost" goals for Washington. The first one, a beautiful header by Cruyff off a Horvath corner, was nullified by an off-sides call on Green.
"Had that goal been scored in Giants Stadium, the referee wouldn't have dared take it away," said one Washington player. "What do we have to do to win? We scored three times (not including Iarusci's penalty kick) and we lose, 2-1."
For the first time since the shootout tie-breaker system was instituted four years ago, Washington missed all five of its attempts. The Dips missed four in a 2-1 loss in Atlanta last week and have now missed 10 straight.
Both Birkenmeier and Dip goalie Bill Irwin were magnificent in the shootout. After four rounds, neither team had scored.Vladislav Bogicevic, the Cosmos' superb midfielder, finally slipped one past Irwin on the fifth round. Iarusci missed and the Cosmos had their third consecutive shootout win over the Dips.
"No problem, I like the shootout," said Birkenmeier, smiling. "I think I stopped seven once in a game (Houston) so five wasn't very many. On those shots, you have to come up quick or you're dead. On the last shot, I made him (Iarusci) go wide and he missed."
Birkenmeier also said the Cosmos were the victim of a bad call. Washington was awarded a penalty kick when Birkenmeier was called for tripping Green in the box.
"Ask him, I didn't do anything," said Birkenmeier, in broken English. "I went out and he fell. Referee calls me for pushing."
Berkenmeier blamed himself for Cruyff's near goal.
"I made a mistake and missed Johan on his shot. I said 'Oh, my God' when he went by me. I screamed for Jeff and he was there. I was glad."