Jeff Durgan wore a look of utter dejection. He had large, red circles around his eyes. He clasped his hands in front of a brown towel while trying to keep his emotions under control.
"You go out on the road and play brilliantly," he said. "You come back here and die."
Durgan rubbed his eyes, thinking about Team America's 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay yesterday before 6,526 at RFK Stadium, the second-smallest crowd of the season.
Even though it was a three-goal loss, the Team America captain knew this was a game the team could have won.
Instead, a heartbreaking goal by Mike Connell with 12 seconds left in the first half gave the Rowdies a 2-1 lead and simultaneously hurt severely hopes that Team America (9-14) would win its second game in a row. Team America had ended an eight-game losing streak Friday by winning at Fort Lauderdale, 4-2.
Tampa Bay (7-17) won its second game in a row for the first time all season and also won its first road game of the season, after 10 straight losses (14 over two years).
After receiving a pass from Franz Gerber from the top of the penalty box with about 15 seconds left, Connell slid by midfielder Sonny Askew and knocked a low, right-footed shot past goalkeeper Arnold Mausser.
"The intention at that time," said Connell, "was to keep the ball and watch the clock. But we dragged them out and I went for it. The idea at that moment wasn't to go forward with the ball. I tried to get by Askew and my momentum took me by him. It was just a matter of slotting the ball in."
Rowdies Coach Al Miller walked into the locker room at halftime with a large smile on his face. "Two things happened with that goal. One, the timing of it. It sent them to their dressing room with a bad psychological attitude. Second, it meant that we could keep the ball and make them go after us."
"It just killed us," said Team America striker Andrew Parkinson.
"We should have grabbed their players, gotten a yellow card, anything but what we did," said Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias. "It shows our inexperience. Instead, we were really demoralized."
Team America came out on this intensely humid, 92-degree day by gaining control of the play, scoring the first goal at 20:25. Alan Green faked rookie defender Gregg Thompson at the top of the penalty box, cut right and sent a neat pass to Chico Borja. Borja broke in alone and easily chipped the ball over goalkeeper Juergen Stars for a 1-0 advantage.
A little more than a minute later, Green broke free in the 18-yard box, but his shot was caught.
"That would have been the game," said Panagoulias. "But they counterattacked and scored (the tying goal)."
At 24:27, Franz Gerber scored his fourth goal of the season from about six yards away by deflecting Mark Karpun's chip.
"Franz just touched it, but the ball didn't change direction," Karpun said. "Arnie (Mausser) was waiting for it to change."
"I thought Dan (Canter, defender) had him (Gerber)," Mausser said. "I was covering the middle of the net and he just flicked it."
In the second half, Jan Van der Veen scored at 79:18 off a pass from Manny Rojas. Tatu scored the Rowdies' final goal at 89:20.
Team America managed only six shots in the second half, compared to 10 in the first. "We were so hurt mentally and physically," Parkinson said. "We also seemed too content about being behind, 2-1.
"Then Hayden (Knight) got sent off (at 70:16). There was a lack of communication on the field. It was the kind of game that the longer it went on, things got worse."
Durgan tried to put the game in perspective. "We made some silly mistakes and paid for it."