Alan Green, who has given Washington soccer fans a lot to cheer about through the years, did it one more time yesterday. The former star of the defunct Diplomats scored the only goal of the game and made Team America's RFK Stadium debut a 1-0 success over the Tulsa Roughnecks.
There was some irony in the goal since Green, who scored it, is British, although he is due to receive U.S. citizenship in June, and the victimized goalie, Winston DuBose, is American-born and tried out for Team America.
An enthusiastic crowd of 14,211 sat through a rainy contest in which both teams provided plenty of close calls without result. But Green, who took nine shots and earlier had sent one off the crossbar, broke through after 72 minutes 50 seconds on a 20-yard chip over the head of DuBose.
Green, just outside the 18-yard line on the left side, arched the ball into the far corner while DuBose scrambled in vain to get back from his position a few yards in front of the goal. Perry Van Der Beck earned an assist on the play.
"Most goalkeepers would have been in the same position," Green said. "I figured he'd be off the line trying to cut the angle and I chipped it over his head. Winston is a good keeper. I was fortunate that the ball went right where I wanted it."
If Green was fortunate to score his 73rd career goal in the game's 73rd minute, Team America was unfortunate on numerous other opportunities, as it outshot Tulsa, 22-13. DuBose made nine saves, compared to only four for Team America's Paul Hammond.
This was the second straight shutout for Hammond, who shared NASL honors in that department with DuBose last season, when each had nine. Team America, which beat Seattle in a shootout after a scoreless tie in its only other match, shares second place in the NASL's Southern Division with Fort Lauderdale; each has 11 points.
Unlike the Seattle players, who claimed to be embarrassed by the loss to Team America, the Roughnecks gave the home club full marks.
"I am embarrassed for the players who felt losing to Team America was embarrassing," said Tulsa Coach Terry Hennessey. "Those words will come back to haunt them, because they will play them again this year, as we will. This is supposed to be the hope of the league, so why bad mouth it? Team America showed me a lot of hustle and a lot of poise today."
Team America also displayed considerable aggressiveness in a rough and slippery contest that saw 37 fouls called, 20 against the home club.
"We outplayed, outshot and outfought Tulsa," said Tony Crescitelli, who once teamed with Green on the Diplomats' front line and came close several times yesterday. "When we played in Europe, they called us naive and innocent players. Well, we were called for 28 fouls against Seattle and we had our share today.
"We're fighting for each other out there and we're not backing down against anybody. It's about time people realized Americans can play. We're showing them and believe me, it's no fluke."
Defender Jeff Durgan, the Team America captain who shared player of the game honors with Green, twice warned Roughnecks about living up to their name and had to be pushed away when he tried to pursue a Tulsa player who knocked Van Der Beck down with only a few seconds remaining.
"When we go out on the field we have no respect for anybody," Durgan said. "We don't have a lot of experience, either, but we do have determination and desire. In this league we've all played for teams with foreigners who ridicule us."
They would have had difficulty finding anything to ridicule yesterday. Although Tulsa is a defense-oriented side, Team America broke through for frequent scoring chances. At the other end, Durgan and backline mates Alan Merrick, Bruce Savage and Dan Canter kept the Roughnecks' high scorers, Laurie Abrahams and Ron Futcher, under control.
Canter made the defensive play of the game in the 18th minute of the second half. Hammond was caught out of the net when Futcher headed a ball toward scoring territory, but Canter was able to get his foot on it before it crossed the line.
Zequinha, Tulsa's Brazilian right wing, spent most of the game trying to get around Merrick and never managed to unload a shot before he was removed for a substitute with 3:55 remaining.
"Our goalkeeper and fullbacks and center backs were very good," said Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias. "We need some players in midfield and when we get them, I think we'll be all right. We had a better organized attack today and we had a lot of chances. We deserved three or four goals."
Green's status remains uncertain, since Golden Bay apparently can call him back if it wishes. Meanwhile, he is enjoying himself.
"I can't imagine someone not wanting to play for his country, but some players who were chosen decided not to come," Green said. "I'm the man in the middle trying to help. I jumped at the chance. I still have a home here and it's great to be back in the area.
"When I was in town the other day, some people told me that when they knew I was playing, they went out and bought season tickets. That really made me feel good. And the crowd was fantastic today. We just want to try and give them good, exciting competitive play. We all want to win, but this is a very young team and winning is a bonus."