Jeff Durgan, the North American Soccer League's rookie of the year while playing defender with the New York Cosmos in 1980, has been named captain of Team America, the combination Washington franchise in the NASL and the U.S. national team in training, Coach Alkis Panagoulias said yesterday.
"He supports the concept of Team America and he is respected by the other players," said Panagoulias after a 1 1/2-hour practice at the RFK Stadium practice field.
"He is an American-born soccer player who will be a good example for Team America."
Durgan, 21, was drafted by the Cosmos out of high school in Tacoma, Wash., and played three seasons with the Cosmos before being picked for Team America during the squad's two-week training camp last month in Tampa.
Initially skeptical about the Team America concept--that a U.S. national team should be culled from top native-born and naturalized American players to prepare for World Cup and, if rules permit, Olympic competition--Durgan has since become one of the idea's most articulate advocates.
"It's a necessity," he said yesterday. Being captain, Durgan said, involves "no great duties right now . . . keeping the players together. Everyone's worked hard and worked well together on the field."
For two weeks now, Team America has been in town, practicing daily on the soggy RFK practice field that it shares with the United States Football League's Washington Federals.
"The mud's been lovely," said defender Alan Merrick, who came to Team America from the Toronto Blizzard.
With only 13 players practicing daily, Team America needs more players, but Panagoulias says he's pleased with the performance of those who are here. "They are responding pretty well. They are practicing very hard," he said.
Of the 16 players selected for Team America after training camp, one, Rick Davis of the Cosmos, rejected the offer, and two others, defender Rudy Glenn of the Chicago Sting and midfielder Vidal Fernandez of the San Diego Sockers, are playing in the Major Indoor Soccer League.
They are expected to join Team America when the MISL season ends, but Team America's NASL opener is April 23 in Seattle, before the end of the MISL season.
"We will let them play for the remainder of the MISL season, but then we have to look for five or six more players from MISL," said Panagoulias, adding that he needs to strengthen his offense.
"I think we're going to be good at defense. We're trying to get some striking force, to get some attack," said Panagoulias. Eventually the coach wants a roster of 20 to 22 players.
Robert Lifton, the principal owner of the team, says he's confident the team will be able to get the offensive stimulus it needs.
Originally scheduled to go on a three- or four-game tour of Central and South America late this month, Team America will probably postpone the trip until April.
That tour is being arranged by the United States Soccer Federation, which has not yet been able to get firm commitments from Central and South American teams to play Team America.
Lifton said negotiations are also under way to schedule an exhibition match here this summer between Team America and Juventes, the major Italian club that has eight players from Italy's 1982 World Cup champion team.
Lifton also said the team will start a major advertising and promotional campaign soon and that it is seeking major corporate sponsors. He said R.J. Reynolds has committed itself to a $2.5 million sponsorship campaign over the next two years and Budweiser has agreed to a $200,000 to $250,000 package.