Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias said yesterday he would accept players from the other North American Soccer League teams on a game-by-game basis, but added that he would choose the players and that they would not be allowed to "disrupt the individuals or character" of the team.
Panagoulias was originally opposed to the plan announced Monday by Team America owner Robert Lifton and NASL President Howard Samuels, whereby the other teams in the league would lend players to Team America on a limited basis, depending on their availability.
But after speaking yesterday with Lifton and Samuels, Panagoulias said he would agree to the plan.
"I would prefer to have the players on a permanent basis," said Panagoulias, whose team will attempt to end a six-game losing streak in a game against the host Vancouver Whitecaps tonight at 10:30 (WWDC-1260).
"I'd like to have as many players as possible try out for us. As the national coach, that is my job. But it is very hard for a player to perform well in just one game."
Panagoulias' greatest fear was that he would not have control over which players would be lent to the team. But after speaking with Samuels, he was assured that he could choose the players from a list of eligibles supplied prior to each game by the NASL.
"It is up to me. It is the coach's responsibility to pick his players," said Panagoulias. "But I'm telling you, these players will not disturb the individuals or the character of the team. I will use them as I see fit."
Team America, which serves as the development squad for the U.S. national team, started well this season but has lost seven of its last eight games. It is currently in last place in the Southern Division with an 8-11 record and is 26 points behind Montreal for the eighth and final playoff berth.
Team America players questioned yesterday said they supported the new plan, even if it meant some might lose their starting jobs to players on loan.
"I wouldn't mind (sitting), because it's helping the team," said forward Andrew Parkinson, who leads the team with three goals. "All season long all we've heard is what players we lacked, players like (Mark) Peterson and (Ricky) Davis. Well, this is their chance to show how good they are. This is their chance to make a difference."
Team America will also likely receive players on loan for the team's Aug. 13 exhibition against Juventus, an Italian club team. Panagoulias has spoken with Cosmos General Manager Thomas Werblin about using several Cosmos players in the game, as the New York-based team will play in Team America in Washington on Aug. 10.