When Team America gives clinics at local shopping malls, it brings along a promotional toy--a miniature goal with a cardboard Paul Hammond guarding it. The motorized, three-foot Hammond is perpetually in midsave, gliding back and forth across the goal mouth, and 10-year-old sharpshooters quickly learn to kick a miniature ball into the open side of the net.
Like most toys, this one has little relation to the real thing.
For one thing, Hammond is 6 feet 1. And he has only been scored upon once this season.
Hammond's stalking, aggressive presence in goal is the main reason Team America is 2-1 and tied for third place in the NASL's Southern Division. Hammond leads the league with a goals-against average of 0.32. A victory in tonight's game against Seattle at RFK at 8 p.m. could give Team America sole possession of first place.
In the season-opener against Seattle, Hammond made five saves and led Team America to a 1-0 victory in a shootout by blocking four of his former teammates' five attempts.
"I was at a great advantage, playing against my former team," said Hammond, 29, an Englishman who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1981. "I used to practice shootouts against them all the time, so I knew where each one would kick the ball."
Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias said yesterday he is uncertain whether he will start Hammond or Arnie Mausser tonight against the Sounders. Hammond, who left Crystal Palace of the English Third Division to sign with Tampa Bay in 1975, said he would like to start but would understand if Panagoulias used Mausser.
Last year, Hammond led the league in minutes played (2,986) and shutouts (nine) and finished as the third-ranked goalie with a 1.40 goals-against average. He led Seattle to an 18-14 record and a berth in the the Soccer Bowl, but was a victim of the Sounders' budget cuts in the offseason. As a free agent, Hammond sought to upgrade his contract based on his 1982 statistics. But a frugal Seattle management had other ideas.
"They wanted me to take a pay cut," said Hammond. "They wouldn't even give me the same contract I had the year before."
Seattle has since fired most of the management that handled Hammond's contract negotiations, but Hans Stierle, the current general manager, said Hammond was not in "philosophical agreement" with the club.
Said Stierle. "The overall picture at Seattle was one Paul couldn't relate to. We stress the players' involvement within the community, and Paul wasn't willing to make the sacrifice."
Hammond disputes that charge. "I did as many clinics as anyone else," he said. "I felt I had a good year and deserved what I asked for."