Team America defenders Dan Canter, Bruce Savage and Tony Bellinger thought Laurie Abrahams was offside. Tulsa forward Njego Pesa thought Abrahams was offside. Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias was sure Abrahams was offside, and Tulsa Coach Terry Hennessey allowed that it was possible. Abrahams admitted to having been offside.
But senior linesman Guy Fraiture felt Abrahams was onside, and allowed his goal with 1:15 remaining, giving the Roughnecks a 3-2 victory over Team America before 4,423 yesterday at RFK Stadium.
Its 12th loss in 13 games, coupled with Montreal's shootout loss to Toronto, eliminated Team America from contention for the North American Soccer League playoffs. Team America (9-17) is last in overall points with 70. Montreal holds the eighth and final playoff spot with 107 points. The Manic are 37 points ahead of Team America, which can get no more than 36 in its last four games.
Abrahams figured in all three Roughnecks' goals. Barry Wallace began the game-winning play by carrying down the right wing and centering the ball to Pesa, who fed Abrahams alone on the left wing. At this point, both Canter and Savage stopped running and looked toward linesman Fraiture, expecting an offside call, as Abrahams appeared to be several steps offside.
Fraiture made no call and Abrahams beat goalkeeper Arnie Mausser to the right corner with a 30-foot drive.
"I gather I must have been offside," said Abrahams, who also scored Tulsa's first goal. "I was surprised he (Fraiture) didn't call it. Even if I was in a straight line with Canter, I was offside. But I didn't pay too much attention to where I was. If I had, I might have missed the ball."
Panagoulias argued the call vehemently, at one point jabbing his finger repeatedly into Fraiture's chest, and was asessed a yellow card. Team America players on the field screamed at both Fraiture and referee Dilvo DiPlacido, and Jeff Durgan, who did not dress for the game, shouted and gestured at Fraiture before being led away by his teammates.
"I don't understand how these owners can spend all this money for players and not get good referees," Panagoulias said. "When I told him what he missed, he (Fraiture) said I was right. But they would not change the call. The referees in this league have no personality. All they do is give out yellow cards--a sign of weakness."
DiPlacido handed out five yellow cards and called a total of 25 fouls, 13 on Team America. The game featured a number of rough tackles by both teams, including one by Canter at 69:20 which left Tulsa forward Ron Futcher with blood streaming down his face.
Tulsa took a 1-0 lead at 23:26 on a goal by Abrahams. Team America tied the score five minutes later on the first of Andrew Parkinson's two goals. Pedro DeBrito sent a left-side corner kick into the box, splitting two Tulsa defenders, and Parkinson redirected the ball with his head into the right side of the net.
Parkinson then gave Team America the lead with his fifth goal of the year in the 63rd minute. Picking up a loose ball in front, Parkinson sent a drive from the top of the box that deflected off a Tulsa defender into the net.
Futcher tied the game with his 14th goal of the year at 70:45. With his head bloodied from Canter's tackle, Futcher got a corner kick from Pesa, heading the ball in at the far post.
Blizzard 2, Manic 1: Victor Kodelja, Neill Roberts and Geoff Wegerle scored during a shootout to help the Toronto win in Montreal and retain third place in the NASL's Eastern Division.
The victory, before 9,755 fans at Exhibition Stadium, gave the Blizzard 117 points, 10 more than Montreal.
Cosmos 5, Sting 3: The Cosmos, after falling behind 2-0 in the first 28 minutes, scored five straight goals, including a pair by Giorgio Chinaglia, to win at the Meadowlands.
The Cosmos' sixth straight victory clinched their sixth consecutive Eastern Division title.