Mark Peterson may be the best U.S. forward in the North American Soccer League, but it remains to be seen whether he can help lift Team America into the playoffs.
Peterson, acquired Monday on loan from the Seattle Sounders for the rest of the season, arrived in Washington yesterday and will go through a light workout this morning. He likely will play in Team America's seven remaining games, starting with tonight's game against the Cosmos at RFK Stadium at 8 (WWDC-1260).
But some feel Peterson may have joined the team too late to make a difference.
"It might have been better if we'd gotten him six or seven games ago," said Team America goalkeeper Paul Hammond, a teammate of Peterson's for two years with Seattle. "You can't expect him to come and win every game for us. That's an awful burden to put on someone, even a player of Mark's ability."
"Mark Peterson is not coming to solve all our problems," said Coach Alkis Panagoulias. "He is coming to contribute. Nothing more."
But Peterson feels he can make a difference. "I don't lay down and die when there's a challenge," said Peterson, whose 13 goals and 38 points make him the NASL's eighth-leading scorer. "Hopefully, this team can do well. I know from the two times I've played them not to count them out."
Team America must defeat the Cosmos if it is to remain in position for a playoff spot. Team America is 11th overall in the 12-team league with a 9-14 record and 67 points, 29 points behind Tulsa in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot. Team America has lost 10 of 12 games and can afford no more losses if it is to make a serious run at the playoffs.
But of the seven teams (Team America, Tulsa, Montreal, Fort Lauderdale, Seattle, Tampa Bay and San Diego) vying for three postseason berths, Team America appears to have the advantage. Team America has seven games remaining, one more than Tulsa, Montreal and Tampa Bay, and has no more than two games per week for the rest of the season.
In addition, four of Team America's games are at home. Fort Lauderdale will begin this week a stretch of four road games in 10 days, including three on the West Coast, and Seattle will play its last three games on the road. San Diego has nine games remaining, but must play them in three weeks.
Of the five teams left on Team America's schedule, Team America has beaten four this season.
"We're not out of the playoffs," said General Manager Beau Rogers. "We've got a long way to go before we're eliminated."
Team America's greatest weakness this season has been scoring, an area which Peterson is expected to improve. Team America has scored 24 goals this season and has only 19 bonus points, awarded for goals scored in a victory. Both are league lows.