The Washington Diplomats' high scoring goalkeeper, Jim Brown, has a new nickname: "Giorgio." As in Cosmos superscorer Giorgio Chinaglia.
It was inevitable after the 28-year-old Scot became the first keeper in the history of the North American Soccer League to score a goal, Sunday against Atlanta, where Brown's 100-yard punt bounced over the opposing goalie's head.
"It's nice to be first," Brown said yesterday, "but that's not what I want people to remember me by. The goal was such a fluke. It just came down faster than he thought and took a very high bounce. I was happy at first, then I started to think about the other goalkeeper and how tough it must have been for him."
The rarity thrust Brown into the spotlight for one of the few times in his career. It's been his tough luck to toil in relative anonymity for a Detroit Express team whose roster had more teen-agers than men.
Tending goal for the youngest team in the NASL last season, Brown quietlyh endured a 14-18 season, in which 14 of the losses were by one goal and seven of those came in shootout sessions. 1
"Everybody said, 'Hey look, 14-18, those guys had a bad season.' But we were with every team until the end. The record was deceiving."
Brown kept telling people that last season, but nobody listened until he blanked the powerful Cosmos, 1-0, for his eighth shutout of the season.Still, Brown's name rarely is mentioned in general conversations about the league's best goaltenders, even though he holds the record for minutes played and was third best in the NASL last season in shutouts, with nine.
"We just didn't have the depth and experience to sustain a high level of play over a 32-game season," Brown said. For those reasons the team was anxious to play the indoor season, which Brown credits with vastly improving his game.
"Indoor helped me immensely," Brown said. "Because said. "Because of the fast surfaces, my reflexes, instincts and reaction time all have gotten better. I still have to improve on defending against crossing passes and diving. But I have more confidence in my game."
Brown, who grew up in Coatbridge, Scotland, began tending net in high school when the regular goalie got the flu and Brown moved over from forward.
After working as a carpenter he was purchased by Chesterfield of the English third division. He played 18 months for that club before being picked up by Sheffield United, where he played for Ken Furphy, now the Diplomats' coach. Three years ago in Detroit, Furphy desperately needed a goalkeeper and immediately thought of Brown.
"He's so agile that you can't believe it," Furphy said. "He's not the biggest goalkeeper, but I've never seen a fellow as agile as he is on the line. He's made some saves that are world-class, and they always seem to come against the opposition's best shooter with the game on the line."
Furphy may have been thinking about Sunday's game, when his son Keith, an Atlanta striker, took a penalty kick from just outside the box with the game tied at 2 and 14 minutes left to play. Brown turned away the shot, enabling the Dips to win on a last-minute goal.
Since, of course, Brown has picked up his nickname and become the most recognizable Diplomat this side of Paul Cannell. Brown could do without the attention.
He'd rather be at home -- which for now is the Mariott Kay Bridge -- with his family. Its most conspicuous member is his Irish setter Erin.
"The hotel was really great about letting me bring Erin," Brown said. "It's hard trying to take her out for a walk in an emergency from the fourth floor."
He, his wife Ruth and daughter Laura are waiting to move into a house in Burke.
Brown and Cannell are the closest thing these Dips have to superstars, and whatever success the team will have this season will depend on them.
As long as he stays healthy, Brown will keep the young Dips in contention. League general managers use only superlatives when assessing his talents. Chinaglia says Brown is perhaps his least favorite goalkeeper -- the ultimate compliment.
"I don't think Chinaglia has to worry about me breaking any of his scoring records," Brown said. But not even the real Giorgio has scored a goal from 100 yards.