In response to Dave Kindred's column of June 19, Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias has defended his team's style, its tactics and the charge that it plays boring soccer.
Mr. Kindred calls us "Team Tranquilizer." If soccer is a sport to make one sleepy, then what can be said of most of the truly "American" sports? I watched a football game on television the other night, and I have never seen so much dead time. The play lasts about three seconds and it seems everyone waits two or three minutes for the next one. The same can be said for baseball.
But soccer is nonstop action for 90 minutes. Actually it is 105 minutes for us, because we play so many overtimes. They stop the game only rarely, but even that is too often. In Europe, they never allow dead time.
Defensive soccer is not boring. By definition, one team must be attacking if the other is playing defensively. A 1-1 game is beautiful, but we mislead people in this country. We tell them to watch for goals, and give away silly points for scoring more.
We don't have the players for 90 minutes of offense, so it would be foolish of me to try that style. I can only use what I have, so we rely on the quick counter-attack, and it has been successful.
I watched tapes of our game with the Cosmos the other night with a friend of mine from Greece. Then we watched some Greek League games, and my friend said he thought our game was more exciting.
We are also accused by Mr. Kindred of being rough. It is true, we are physical, but you can't condemn the entire team for the play of one or two. I have found the typical American athlete is aggressive, which is good for American soccer. The game today lacks that energy, but we have it.
Mr. Kindred also calls us "Team Immigration," which I feel is very unfair. Almost everyone in this country was an immigrant at one time or another. Even the president's ancestors started out in Europe.
But no one can say he is more American than another person because he has lived here longer. Often naturalized citizens are the most patriotic. The players we have love this country and are proud to have become citizens. They will fight for the U.S.
As to the charge that we are not the nationial team, this is partially true. Some of the players whom I would like on the national team have chosen not to play. But we are in training for the national team. When I pick my World Cup team, I guarantee 85 percent of it will come from Team America.
Americans don't realize how important soccer is in the rest of the world. It is like an international language. Everybody knows Pele, Beckenbauer. When Henry Kissinger goes somewhere, he establishes warm relations by discussing soccer, not baseball. This country has the money and the talent, but it doesn't realize what soccer means.
Since we put this team together three months ago, all we have gotten is a negative response. We should be congratulated for the fine things we have done. Three months ago, most of these players were on the bench in the NASL, watching international stars play. But we have given them a chance, and we have shown that American soccer is to be respected.