Howard Samuels, president of the North American Soccer League, said yesterday he would order team owners to lend Team America the players it needs on a limited, game-by-game basis for the remainder of this season.
Samuels said yesterday the plan is designed to better prepare the team for the 1986 World Cup. Team America has lost six straight games and Coach Alkis Panagoulias has said he needs better players.
Samuels made the announcement after meeting for three hours yesterday with Team America owner Robert Lifton and NASL officials, including Executive Director Ted Howard and former commissioner Phil Woosnam. Samuels said he expected players to begin joining Team America for one- and two-game stints as early as next week, based on their availability.
"The team needs more aggressive support from the league, and the coach needs more players," said Samuels. "I'd like to have one or two new players for each game, but a lot of that depends on the schedule. We've got people right now working on the schedules, trying to find the available dates."
Lifton requested the meeting because his team has had trouble getting the players it needs from the other NASL teams. Last week he said the other owners were forcing him to do a "halfway job" by not providing players, but Lifton was pleased with the outcome of yesterday's meeting.
"I think we made remarkable progress," he said. "The league is now totally aware of our problems and what has to be done, and I have been assured of the league's commitment. I see new players coming in immediately."
Samuels said players such as Mark Peterson and Chance Fry of Seattle, Hugo Perez and Vidal Fernandez of San Diego and Ricky Davis, Steve Moyers, Angelo DiBernardo, Darryl Gee and Mike Fox of the Cosmos would likely join Team America on a limited basis.
"If I was the coach, I wouldn't be very pleased with the players who didn't want to join the team," said Samuels. "We've got World Cup qualifying games starting next year, and we want to give Panagoulias a chance to see what he has to choose from."
While the plan should improve Team America, it is likely to face opposition from those teams challenging for playoff spots like Seattle or San Diego or those fighting for the postseason home field advantage like the Cosmos. There may also be a problem with team morale because the new players are expected to start ahead of players who have been starters all or most of the season. But Samuels is confident the plan can succeed.
"It's going to be difficult, but if we don't interfere with the teams' schedules, then I think it can work," he said.