Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias had never seen a shootout before, and his team had practiced the tie-breaking drill only once.
Fortunately for Panagoulias, his goalkeeper, Paul Hammond, spent the previous two years practicing shootouts as a member of the Seattle Sounders. So when Saturday's North American Soccer League game against Seattle went to the procedure after both teams failed to score in regulation or overtime, Panagoulias knew he had the game won.
"I expected to win it," said Panagoulias, whose team outshot Seattle, 2-1, in the best-of-five tie-breaker to earn the victory, 1-0, in its NASL debut. "In my pocket I had the names of the five players I wanted to use, and I was confident. Seattle has top professional players, but we held them. We deserved the win."
Hammond, who became a free agent after the 1982 season, was statistically the league's third-best goalie last year with nine shutouts and a 1.29 goals-against average. More importantly Sunday night, he knew the Sounders' shooters.
"That was my reason for using Paul," Panagoulias said. "He was familiar with the stadium, with the field . . . he knew where their shots would go."
In contrast, Seattle goalkeeper Joe Corrigan, acquired last month from Manchester City of the English League's First Division, was confused by the shootout procedure. Corrigan, one of the top goalkeepers in England, had to ask both the referees and Hammond for clarifications on the rules prior to the shootout.
"I don't blame Corrigan," said Panagoulias. "It was strange to me, too. The fans seem to love the shootout, but it is a long way from soccer as I know it."
Following the win, which can be regarded as an upset in that Seattle had been a Soccer Bowl finalist in 1982, Panagoulias decided to give his team Monday off. But he is not worried that the two-week layoff prior to Team America's next game May 8 will cause his players to lose their competitive edge.
"We will keep the intensity," Panagoulias said. "But it might be better for us to relax a bit. May will be a very hard month for us. With the schedule we have coming up, we need some time off."
Team America's May schedule, which includes a five-games-in-nine-days stretch, was intensified yesterday by the announcement of an exhibition game May 19 against Watford of the English League's First Division in Kingston, Jamaica. The Watford team is owned by singer Elton John.
Team America defender Jeff Durgan was named the NASL's player of the week yesterday by the Pro Soccer Reporters Association for his performance against Seattle.