Players competing for positions on Team America, which is a combination Washington franchise in the North American Soccer League and U.S. national team, say they are enthusiastic about the concept of an all-American professional soccer team.
But some are concerned about the effect of the tryouts on their playing careers, and others are worried about the organizational problems in getting the team together.
"A lot of players are very nervous," said Jeff Durgan, a defender from the Cosmos who has played on a previous U.S. national team. "Most of us are giving up good jobs with other teams to come here."
"There will be some organizational problems. It might take a couple of months to get the right system and get the right players and the right blend," said Perry Van Der Beck of Tampa Bay, the first NASL player to be drafted out of high school when the Rowdies picked him on the third round in 1978.
As the candidates for Team America completed their first full two-practice day, the league released the team's 1983 schedule. Team America will open April 23 against the Sounders in Seattle, with its home opener May 8 against the Tulsa Roughnecks at RFK Stadium.
Under the NASL format, Team America will compete in the Southern Division and will play four games each against divisional opponents Tulsa, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa Bay. Team America will play two or three games each against teams in the Western and Eastern divisions. The Cosmos, defending NASL champions, will be at RFK June 17 and Aug. 10.
As the players worked out today under a cloudless sky at the University of Tampa, many were aware that the survival of professional soccer in the United States may depend on the success of Team America.
"My feeling is that if we don't have a good, competitive Team America, the league could well go under," said Durgan. "We've got to show all these foreigners who come in and think they own the NASL that we can be competitive. We've got to change some minds.
"The idea is brilliant. You not only bring back a lot of lost interest in the game by having a totally American team, but you also prepare for world competition by having your guys play together."
To be eligible for a position on Team America, players must be either native-born or naturalized Americans who have not played for any other country in world competition.
"We must get the public to wake up and think soccer," said Angelo DiBernardo, a midfielder from the Cosmos who sat out most of last season with a knee injury.
"There is no question that this team can be good, and I think it will be. In the United States, we don't have a (Franz) Beckenbauer, a (Johann) Cruyff or a Pele who can make the difference on a team. There will not be many standouts. This will be a team thing. There are no American superstars."
While most of the players say they expect Team America to be competitive in the North American Soccer League, few harbor illusions that the team will be able to defeat the top international teams right away.
"If people think this is all going to happen right away, they will be wrong," said Paul Hammond, a goalkeeper with Seattle last season. "I'm not going to say we can go out and beat England or the Italians; that would be silly. But I think we can hold our own against them without getting embarassed. This is going to be a learning year if people don't expect too much of us. If we go out and play the top powers, that will be a very stern test."The Cosmos' Darryl Gee, who is from Columbia, Md., said he will not try out for Team America. The NASL had said Tuesday that Gee would do so.
Citing a lack of consideration by the NASL, several of the top Americans playing indoor soccer have said they do not intend to try out for Team America, even if invited.
Earl Foreman, commissioner of the Major Indoor Soccer League, said last week that none of his players would be allowed to try out for Team America until after the 1982-83 season ends in May.
"It is tough for us to feel positive about Team America," said St. Louis Steamers forward Don Ebert, a member of the Olympic team. "No one has talked to any of us MISL players. No one has explained the situation to us."