Toronto's Conny Karlsson scored in the 10th round of the shootout and goalkeeper Jan Moller stopped Jeff Durgan's attempt, giving the Blizzard a 2-1 win over Team America last night before 16,513 at RFK Stadium.
Each team made one of five shots during the first round of the shootout. The remaining shots were on a sudden-death basis, with a team needing only a one-goal advantage to win.
Team America twice matched goals by Toronto before Karlsson, acquired from the Swedish first division earlier this year, beat goalkeeper Arnie Mausser with a low, hard shot into the left corner. Moller had little trouble stopping Durgan's slow shot from the left, giving the Blizzard its first shootout victory in two attempts this season.
"After a while the shootout starts to favor the shooter," said Mausser, who is 1-2 in the tie breaker this season. "The trick is to shoot as close to the goalie's legs as possible, where he's helpless. If you notice, everything they shot high, either Moller or I got."
Toronto also got goals from Victor Kodleja, Randy Ragan and Jimmy Nicholl in the league's longest shootout this season. The Blizzard (11-7) is in second place in the North American Soccer League's Eastern Division with 97 points.
Team America (8-7), which got goals from Dan Canter, Ringo Cantillo and Rudy Glenn, is in third place in the Southern Division with 53 points. Team America, competing in its fifth shootout of the year, has lost three of its last four games.
Several of Team America's players said lopsided losses to Golden Bay and the Cosmos left the team mentally tired for last night's game. "We were too sluggish," said midfielder Hayden Knight, whose goal at 23:16 gave Team America a 1-0 lead. "We couldn't get that extra zip. The New York loss (a 4-0 defeat Wednesday) probably had a lot to do with it. That kind of a loss is more mentally exhausting than physically."
"I told my players to put those games behind them," said Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias. "I told them to start over tonight."
Knight scored on a left-side corner kick from Boris Bandov. Stationed at the near post, Knight-- whose only other goal this year also came off a corner--outleaped defender Derek Spalding and sharply headed the ball past Moller.
The Blizzard tied the score at 38:42 on an unassisted goal by David Byrne. Gathering in his own rebound off a shot blocked by Canter, Byrne cut to his right at the left corner of the box and beat Mausser with a hard drive to the right corner. It was Byrne's 11th goal of the season, tying him with the Cosmos' Giorgio Chinaglia for second in the league in scoring with 33 points.
Byrne's goal came while Team America had just 10 players on the field. Defender Tony Bellinger sustained a cut under his right eye after being elbowed by a Toronto player, and he left the field to receive attention. After Byrne scored for Toronto, Panagoulias replaced Bellinger with Glenn. Bellinger needed six stitches to close the wound.
Panagoulias hoped to shake up his players by benching regulars Pedro DeBrito, Perry Van Der Beck and Andrew Parkinson in favor of Bellinger, Sonny Askew and Cantillo, three players with a total of six starts among them. Cantillo signed with the team Thursday and worked out with the team once.
"I want to see all the players, how well they can react," said Panagoulias. "I thought the players I used did quite well. Ringo moved the ball very well, and soon the players were looking for him."
Askew also played his best game this season, getting back quickly on defense and distributing the ball well.
The pace of the game, which had been moderate in the first half but had slowed to a walk in the second half, picked up considerably once the game entered sudden-death overtime.
The Blizzard, who held a 25-15 advantage in shots, nearly won the game three minutes into the first overtime when Cliff Calvert got a loose ball on the left wing and sent a hard cross through Team America's defense into the box. Pasquale DeLuca also broke through the back line and received the pass, but his point-blank drive from 10 feet went over the crossbar.
Team America failed to capitalize on perhaps the game's best scoring chance when forward Parkinson beat everybody to a rolling ball down the center of the field with 31 seconds remaining. He faked Moller out of position and shot softly at the open goal from 20 feet, but defender Karlsson swept in to clear the ball from the crease.
The game had become more physical in the second half. Roberto Bettega upended defender Durgan with a hard tackle at 78:22, and Blizzard defender Bruce Wilson shoved Parkinson out of bounds with two minutes remaining. Byrne was assessed a yellow card at 85:33 after taking down Canter.