Seattle's goalie didn't have to make a save until the 99th minute of play Saturday night against Team America. But the Washington-based team won its North American Soccer League debut, 1-0, after a shootout, and Coach Alkis Panagoulias was pleased even if the paying customers weren't.
"In America, you have a very wrong idea about soccer. You think that soccer is attacking," said Panagoulias, former coach of Greek national champion Olympiakos. "That's why you give extra points (for scoring). But there is beautiful football in defensive play. Can you imagine a basketball team without a defense? It would be ridiculous.
"I'm not saying that I'm playing defensively. We give away the space in order to conquer it back and have the chances. And we had the chances."
But Team America didn't convert them until the shootout. Boris Bandov and Dan Canter scored as Washington won the shootout, 2-1. Goalie Paul Hammond, who formerly played for the Sounders, stopped four of five Seattle shots in the five-shot tiebreaker.
Afterward, for the first time in more than 20 years of coaching, Panagoulias admitted he didn't know the score following Canter's successful hard right-footed shot past Seattle goalkeeper Joe Corrigan.
Panagoulias said he lost track of the shootout score somewhere along the way.
Still, he was able to laugh.
"I'm happy with these boys," said Panagoulias, looking around the locker room at some of the 15 members of Team America, the newest franchise in the financially troubled NASL.
"They played 90 regular minutes, plus another 15. And they went into that beautiful American innovation, the shootout. But for the first time in my coaching career, after 100 or so minutes, I didn't know the score," he said.
During the 105 minutes of regulation and overtime, neither team did much attacking. Although Seattle outshot Team America, 20-15, none of the Sounders' attempts gave Hammond much trouble.
"We knew that the Sounders would attack from the beginning. So we tried to hold the first 20 minutes, then we got our counterattack, playing a zone defense," Panagoulias said. "And they didn't get a good chance. Ever. And that is success for us."
Team America captain Jeff Durgan concurred.
"It's unfortunate that we couldn't score in regulation, but defensively we held," said Durgan, a former Cosmos defender. "Everyone played well. Everyone contributed defensively.
"We had 28 fouls and they had eight. Obviously we went to the ball a little bit harder than they did. If they want to call us dirty, they want to say we're hackers--whatever they say, it doesn't matter. Just look at the scoreboard."
Seattle defender Jeff Stock, a former teammate of Durgan's at the junior level in nearby Tacoma, wasn't making any accusations. Stock, a starter on Seattle's 1982 Soccer Bowl team, said the Sounders lost because they failed to take control early.
Forward Alan Green, one of three recent acquisitions by Team America, was lifted from the game midway through the second half with a bruised right thigh; Chico Borja played on a tender right ankle. Both should have ample time to heal before Team America's next game, the May 8 home opener against Tulsa at RFK Stadium.