Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias spent all week telling his players not to be afraid of the Cosmos, not to be intimidated by their stars and international reputation. But Team America apparently failed to listen to its coach, playing sloppy defense and sporadically on offense before suffering its worst defeat of the season, 4-0, to the Cosmos tonight before 35,228 at Giant Stadium.
Julio Cesar Romero, a 22-year-old midfielder from Paraguay, scored one goal and assisted on the other three to lead the North American Soccer League champions. The victory raises the Cosmos' record to 11-6 and gives the team solid possession of first place in the NASL's Eastern Division with 100 points.
Team America, which has been outscored, 8-2, in losing two of its last three games, falls to 8-6. The four goals allowed tonight are the most Team America has allowed in one game this season.
"I told my players not to be afraid," said Panagoulias. "I cannot tolerate fear. I know playing in 'Cosmosland,' with all these big stars, can be difficult. We played very poorly. But maybe this is a good example for my players."
The Cosmos, who lost, 2-1, in a shootout to Team America earlier this season, dominated every phase of tonight's game. The Cosmos outshot Team America, 26-16, and held a 6-5 advantage in corner kicks.
However, the victory was costly for the Cosmos. Striker Giorgio Chinaglia, who leads the league with 16 goals, was taken out of the game at 53:13 after crashing into the goal post. Chinaglia was taken from the field on a stretcher and was diagnosed as having severely strained his left hamstring. He is expected to be out of action a minimum of two weeks, according to team officials.
Team America also lost more than the game. Defender Jeff Durgan, who played a very physical contest against his old teammates, was assessed a yellow card at 74:50. The card, his seventh of the year, puts him over the league limit in penalty points and will force Durgan to sit out Team America's home game July 20 against San Diego.
Steve Moyers gave the Cosmos a 1-0 lead at 26:02 off a left side corner kick from Romero. The cross, which hooked in towards the goal, barely eluded a clearing attempt by defender Bruce Savage at the near post. But Moyers, cutting in from the top of the box, crashed into both Savage and goalkeeper Paul Hammond, carrying all three players and the ball into the net.
"I couldn't have missed the ball by more than a few inches," said Savage. "It just went over my head."
"I was lucky to get to the ball first," said Moyers, who has six goals. "It was hooking in toward the goal and probably would have gone in anyway, even if I hadn't hit it."
The Cosmos, who held a 13-5 first-half advantage in shots, made it 2-0 at 55:40 when Romero slipped behind Team America's defense and beat Hammond to the right corner. Johan Neeskens set the play up by feeding Roberto Cabanas on the right side and he drove a low cross into the box. Romero intercepted the ball and banged it into the far corner from 15 feet.
After the goal, Team America's defense collapsed. Romero set up the third Cosmos goal when he stole the ball from defender Dan Canter on the right side and carried several steps before slipping a low ball under Hammond to Cabanas at the left post. Cabanas easily tapped the ball in for his 13th goal at 65:06.
Romero and Moyers teamed to set up Vladislav Bogicevic for the Cosmos' fourth goal seven minutes later. Romero fed Moyers deep in the left corner where the 27-year-old American centered a low cross. Bogicevic, stationed at the top of the box, volleyed the ball on the fly into the lower right corner.
Team America's offense, which all but disappeared in the second half, appeared to score at 35:43. Forward Alan Green and midfielder Chico Borja worked a sharp give and go outside the penalty area, springing Green free for a drive that beat goalkeeper Hubert Birkenmeier to the left side. But linesman Glen Blue ruled Green was offsides, and the score was disallowed.
Team America is expected to sign midfielder Ringo Cantillo Thursday. Cantillo, 26, played last season with the New York Arrows of the Major Indoor Soccer League.