Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias feels Durgan's anger is well-placed. "I told the players they are in deep water now," said Panagoulias. "This team was created so that they could finally prove themselves. This is the Americans' chance."

Durgan won the Durgan, Team America Say It's Matter of Pride By Doug Cress Special to The Washington Post FOCUS

Team America defender Jeff Durgan has some unpleasant memories of his first three years in the North American Soccer League, and his thin, steely eyes still hint of the anger within him.

Durgan remembers the time Franz Beckenbauer, then a teammate on the New York Cosmos, told him he wasn't good enough to play in the NASL. Another time, Giorgio Chinaglia demanded that Durgan keep Seattle's Roger Davies from scoring so that he, Chinaglia, could win the scoring title.

Once, the Cosmos' owner ordered the players to win a game.

Durgan also remembers the time that Dallas forward Klaus Toppmoller, who was bought from a West German first division team for a huge sum and who was nursing an injured knee, approached Durgan during a game and offered not to try and score if Durgan would promise not to tackle him.

Angered by Toppmoller's lack of professionalism, Durgan immediately took him out of the game with a hard tackle.

"I was furious," said Durgan. "Here, (Dallas Coach Al) Miller said Toppmoller was going to save the league, and he (Toppmoller) tried something like that. I couldn't believe it."

What has struck deepest with Durgan, however, is what he says is the league's mistreatment of its American players, and he sees Team America as the best way to fight back.

"We've got something to prove," said Durgan, at 21, the youngest team captain in the league. "We've all been ridiculed. We've all been told we can't play or we're not good enough. But we're trying to show the NASL, the general managers and the coaches that you can win with American players."

Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias feels Durgan's anger is well-placed. "I told the players they are in deep water now," said Panagoulias. "This team was created so that they could finally prove themselves. This is the Americans' chance."

Durgan won the league's rookie-of-the-year award in 1980, and quickly established himself as one of the league's premier fullbacks, usually marking the opposition's top strikers. Playing with world-class defenders like Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Wim Rijsbergen, Durgan was able to nurture his game, and he helped the Cosmos to three straight Soccer Bowl appearances.

But with the advent of Team America, Durgan is on his own. On the field, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound former national youth team member must coordinate the offense as well as the defense, and off the field he must serve as the players' emotional leader and liaison with the coaches.

"From the beginning, Jeff was a moving force behind the Team America concept," said Panagoulias. "He has the charisma to be a leader, and all the players listen to him. Every coach wants his captain to be a coach on the field, and Jeff has the ability to do that for me."