After watching his team outscored, 10-3, in losing three of its last four games, Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias said he has never been more committed to his principles.
"This is not the time to panic," said Panagoulias, whose team lost to the Toronto Blizzard, 2-1, in a shootout Friday night at RFK Stadium.
"I told my players they played very well against a good team; we were very close. We don't have to lose faith now. After a few defeats, everyone wants to change, but we shall continue to practice the same skills we have used all year. We shall be patient."
But when asked to compare Team America's performances with those of teams he had coached in Greece, Panagoulias showed he is not used to losing. "Not too many losses in Greece," he said simply.
Team America, coming off a 4-0 loss to the Cosmos Wednesday night in New York, appeared to have shaken its midseason slump when Hayden Knight gave the home squad a 1-0 lead with a header at 23:16. And Washington had several other excellent scoring opprtunities in the first half.
However, the Blizzard tied the score on David Byrne's 11th goal of the year at 38:42.
Team America failed to capitalize on perhaps the game's best scoring opportunity when Andrew Parkinson faked goalkeeper Jan Moller out of position with 31 seconds remaining in the second overtime and shot softly from 20 feet at an open net. Toronto defender Conny Karlsson swept in to clear the ball off the line.
In the shootout, Toronto edged Team America, 4-3, in the longest tie breaker of the season. The Blizzard won when Karlsson beat goalkeeper Arnie Mausser with a low shot to the left corner in the 10th round and Moller stopped Jeff Durgan's attempt.
Panagoulias' decision to bench starters Pedro DeBrito, Perry Van Der Beck and Parkinson in favor of Sonny Askew, Tony Bellinger and Ringo Cantillo also appeared to give Team America's midfield new life. Askew played his best game of the season, getting back quickly on defense and distributing the ball well. Cantillo, signed Thursday from New York of the Major Indoor Soccer League, adapted quickly to the offense and showed signs of being the playmaker Panagoulias has sought all season.
"I felt I did pretty well," said Askew, making his second start of the year. "I helped pressure on defense and I was concentrating on holding the ball and not making silly mistakes. But I haven't played that much and I wasn't match fit. You can only practice so much."
"Sonny will become a very good player if he is a bit more mature," said Panagoulias. "But I have to give everybody a chance to play. We are still learning to become a team and I am still learning the players."
Mausser, who has logged 513 minutes despite playing in only five games, was also impressive. He faced 25 shots, making eight saves, including several reflex stops. He also made six saves in the shootout, his third of the season.