Coach Alkis Panagoulias and his Team America players admitted last night's game against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers meant very little to the team's dubious prospects for survival. That is a good thing, because they played uninspired soccer and lost to the Strikers, 2-0, in what may have been their last game at RFK Stadium.
Only 6,718 watched this one.
"Fort Lauderdale needed the points; we didn't," said midfielder Boris Bandov. "For them it was do or die. But to us, the game meant little."
The loss assured Team America of a last-place finish in both the North American Soccer League's Southern Division and its overall standings with a 10-20 record and 79 points. Team America lost seven of its last eight games and failed to score in the final three.
The Strikers finished second in the Southern Division with a 14-16 record and 136 points. They finished sixth in the overall standings and will face division winner Tulsa in the first round of the playoffs Tuesday night in Tulsa.
Officials from the United States Soccer Federation, the NASL and Team America are expected to meet later this week to decide whether funding can be found to keep the team solvent during the winter and to field a team for the 1984 season.
Even though Team America's inaugural season failed to produce the results many had hoped, most of the players felt the team was a success.
"I think it was successful. I really do," said goalkeeper Paul Hammond. "I had hoped for at least a .500 record, but I still believe in the concept."
"Everybody expected us to be world beaters," said midfielder Pedro DeBrito. "But when you put a team together in two months, what do you expect? I think we did okay."
"Team America played with pride," said Strikers Coach David Chadwick.
Fort Lauderdale, which has seven players with national team experience, scored once in each half.
The Strikers scored first at 23:11 when Teofilo Cubillas worked a give and go with Thomas Rongen and fed Brian Kidd at the top of the box. Kidd controlled the ball, turned to his left and beat goalkeeper Arnie Mausser with a left-footed shot from 20 yards.
The Strikers made it 2-0 at 67:34 on a close-in header by Bruce Miller. Cubillas again worked a give-and-go play, this time with Branko Segota, and cut in alone on Mausser. Cubillas faked Mausser out of position and sent a soft cross to Miller on the left side, who headed the ball into the unguarded net.
"Today it was obvious what skill and experience mean," said Panagoulias. "We gave away two very naive, American-type goals. But this has been a good education for me as a coach. When I came here, I did't know a thing about the NASL or American soccer. But now I know faces and places and no one will tell me what to do."
Team America played poorly throughout the game, failing to communicate on either offense or defense. Both teams got off 19 shots, but Team America's were mostly from long range while the Strikers tested Mausser repeatedly.
Team America's only serious scoring threat came when Alan Green hit the crossbar from 20 yards in the 17th minute. Teammate Mark Peterson collected the rebound, but he could get off only a weak shot that Fort Lauderdale goalkeeper Jan van Beveren easily stopped.
Van Beveren made five saves while Mausser made six, three purely on reflex.
After the game, Team America defender Dan Canter was announced as the overall winner of the Winston-Team America series, awarded for being selected player of the game the most times this season. Canter was awarded $10,000, while second-place finisher Bruce Savage earned $5,000 and Jeff Durgan earned $2,500 for third place.