Things have gotten so bad this season for Tony Crescitelli it took help from his mother before he was able to score a goal for Team America.
With her son in the throes of a horrid scoring slump, Maria Crescitelli sent him a small good luck necklace he had worn as a child in Italy, telling him to wear it when he played. Crescitelli had the necklace on when he scored the decisive shootout goal in a 2-1 victory over Fort Lauderdale June 12, but he lost it after the game and has not scored since.
"This season has been a nightmare," said Crescitelli, who has not made a goal in regulation play during the 17 games to date--though his 43 shots are the high for Team America, which plays San Diego at 8 tonight (WWDC-1260) in RFK Stadium.
"I'd love to know what's wrong. I'm paid to score goals, but I haven't been able to. I'm scoring goals and working hard in practice, but when I get in a game I just can't seem to do it."
"We expected big things from Tony, but he has had a tough time," said Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias. "This boy has lost his confidence, but his problems are more tactical than technical. I will continue to give him chances."
For Crescitelli, 1983 was supposed to be his triumphant return to Washington. A 15-goal scorer in just 19 games with the Diplomats in 1980, the roly-poly striker was the team's third-leading scorer. After the Diplomats folded, Crescitelli signed with San Jose (now Golden Bay) and scored 14 goals in two seasons.
"I gave up a starting job in San Jose to come here," said Crescitelli, who has 68 career points. "This is what I always wanted, to play with the best Americans in this city. I was sure I'd be one of the league's leading scorers, because I was so hot before I got hurt last year."
Crescitelli scored seven goals in his first six games for San Jose in 1982, but then injured his right knee, requiring an operation and missing 12 games. Crescitelli insists the knee is sound, but admits his confidence is shaken.
"For a while I even considered seeing a psychiatrist to try and get me thinking positively," Crescitelli said. "I'm taking good shots, but I'm rushing them. But I've had bad luck, too. I've had shots bounce off the post, the crossbar, the defenders . . . It's like there's a mirror in front of the goal."
"This sort of thing happens to all forwards," said Alan Green, a teammate on the Diplomats and Team America. "Tony's not doing anything differently than before, but certainly (midfielder) Johan (Cruyff) made a big difference. In 1980 we had a player in Cruyff who set up all the goals. Now Tony's finding he has to work harder for his scoring opportunities."
Cruyff, the temperamental midfielder who helped make the Diplomats one of the league's highest-scoring teams in 1980, was especially fond of Crescitelli.
"We had a good understanding of each other," Crescitelli recalled. "He would just take the ball, point to a spot, and say 'go here' or 'go there' and I'd be in perfect position to score. I'm making the same runs now, but I'm not always getting the ball."
Team America defender Jeff Durgan will sit out tonight's game because he accumulated 25 penalty points. Durgan's yellow card against the Cosmos July 8 put him over the limit . . . Sonny Askew and Green will miss the game with shoulder injuries, and Alan Merrick (thigh) is questionable. Boris Bandov (groin) and Ringo Cantillo (malaria) should play.