Most soccer coaches would be delighted with a national championship and even happier with two. But Montgomery United Coach Gordon Murray, whose Ponies won their second national title in three years last week, wants a third.
Montgomery United got a goal from Michael Brady in the 114th minute to defeat Scott Gallagher of St. Louis, 2-1, last weekend to win the national 19-and-under championship (the McGuire Cup) in Omaha. Murray, whose team won the 16-and-under title in San Jose in 1981, thinks a third championship is possible.
"We'll play for the McGuire Cup again," said Murray, whose team finished with a 12-0 record in the tournament. "We've had most of the same players since 1981, and we'll only lose two next year. We believed from day one that we'd win this year, and I think we can do it again."
The Ponies, who are made up largely of high school players from Montgomery County, won the Eastern Regional by such lopsided scores as 6-1 and 7-2, and defeated the Dallas Longhorns, 1-0, in the national semifinals. But Murray feels the toughest competition his players faced was in this area.
"The competition in the tournament was outstanding, but the toughest part was just getting out of our own state," said Murray. "The talent is more diversified in this area, and teams like Annandale, Potomac and Northwest can all beat you. Just getting out of Maryland was an accomplishment."
Unlike most of the teams in the McGuire Cup, Montgomery United was not top-heavy with college stars. Only two of the Ponies (midfielders Doug Davies and Brady) are in college, in contrast with the Dallas Longhorns, who feature nine collegians. But Montgomery United prepared for the tournament by scrimmaging Team America and top college squads like Duke, Virginia, Clemson, North Carolina State and North Carolina.
Murray uses a 4-4-2 offense, which is well-suited to his personnel. Forwards John Kerr Jr., a first-round draft choice of the Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, and Bruce Murray, the coach's son, are two of the best strikers in the country. Murray, Brady and midfielder Scott Snyder are also members of the national youth team.
Davies and Brady anchor the midfield, and defenders Pete Hilsee, Julian Etches and Steve Daskal lead the defense. Scott Bretner is so good in goal Murray doesn't feel obliged to maintain a backup.
Murray feels the team's consistency is another of its strengths. "We always play the same," he said.