Team America, playing before a crowd of 50,108 that was attracted by the postgame Beach Boys concert but thrilled by the soccer, scored a 2-1 shootout victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers yesterday at RFK Stadium.
Team America got goals from Dan Canter, Perry Van Der Beck and Tony Crescitelli and two key saves from goalkeeper Arnie Mausser in the shootout.
Team America, which was forced to play with 10 men for the final 69:24 after the ejection of Jeff Durgan midway through the first half, took a 1-0 lead nine minutes into the game on a goal by Alan Green. Fort Lauderdale tied the score at 62:46 on a header by Brian Kidd, forcing the overtime.
Neither team could score in the two 7 1/2-minute sudden-death overtime periods, sending the game into the shootout. The Strikers got a goal from Teofilo Cubillas on their first attempt, but were unable to beat Mausser on three subsequent shots.
"At halftime we realized we had to change tactics," said Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias, whose 6-4 team has won three straight and is in first place in the North American Soccer League's Southern Division. Fort Lauderdale is in last place at 3-7.
"Because we lost Jeff we had to play defensively," said Panagoulias. "When they scored we just tried to play for the shootout where everybody has a 50-50 chance. It's too bad we didn't play a better game, especially with such a large crowd."
The crowd, which was almost five times larger than Team America's home average, is the largest in the NASL this season. But the Team America players said they didn't feel added pressure to win over those who had come just for the music.
"That pressure is always there to play," said Mausser, who made 12 saves, including several from point-blank range late in the game. "A lot of times I've seen the home team go out there and choke. We just had to relax and play our game."
Team America took a 1-0 lead at 9:03 when Green, who has been sidelined since May 18 with a strained hamstring, scored off a feed from Pedro DeBrito.
Defender Bruce Savage began the play by lofting a right-side cross to DeBrito in the box, who faked as if to jump over the ball and "dummied" a pass with his right instep to Green. Hesitating long enough to draw the defense in, Green then beat goalkeeper Jan van Beveren with a 20-foot shot that banged off the crossbar into the goal.
But Team America, which tends to fall back on defense after taking the lead, immediately dropped back and conceded the midfield.
Mausser also was tested several times as a result of Team America's conservative play. He came out 20 yards to block a breakaway attempt from the left side by Thomas Rongen at 22:20, and made a reflex foot save off a redirection header by Branko Segota one minute later.
Team America's defensive game plan was altered when Durgan was ejected at 35:36. After a scramble at the top of the box, Canter fell to the ground and appeared to be kicked in the ankle by Segota. Durgan, Team America's captain, rushed Segota and pushed him away before the other players could intervene.
"I was just trying to protect my players," said Durgan. "I don't think the ejection was justified. The referee must have been informed about me. Maybe he heard that I was a rough player, because he didn't even let me defend myself."
Durgan was ejected by referee Dilvo DePlacido for "violent misconduct: striking another player." As Durgan stalked off the field, Panagoulias argued vehemently and received a yellow card.
Team America officials said after the game they would appeal the ejection. If it is allowed to stand, Durgan will be forced to sit out Friday's home game against the Cosmos.
Ironically, Team America nearly scored as a result of the turmoil. After blocking Fort Lauderdale's free kick when play resumed, DeBrito stole the ball and fed Andrew Parkinson, who was running down the right wing. Parkinson cut in on van Beveren, but his rising shot at 35:31 sailed over the crossbar.
Team America contined to play conservatively in the second half, allowing the Strikers to push play beyond midfield. The Strikers eventually tied the game at 62:46 when Segota fed Steve Wegerle deep in the left corner. Wegerle sent a low cross through the box, which Kidd headed in at close range from the far post.