Do you want to see it?" With that, Thomas Dooley disappeared into
the bathroom of his Washington, D.C., hotel room last Saturday
night. Moments later, after rummaging through his toiletry kit,
he emerged carrying a red armband inscribed with a black Cthe
very band he had worn against Austria four days earlier as
captain of the U.S. team. "I have thin arms, and this one fits
me well," he said, proudly wrapping it around his left biceps.
A former German citizen whose father was a U.S. serviceman,
Dooley, 36, began learning English only six years ago, which may
explain why he calls the armband a "bandage." That malaprop had
a certain symbolism to it last week, for Dooley helped guide the
U.S. through a whirlwind healing process after coach Steve
Sampson's April 14 dismissal of longtime captain John Harkes. In
the Americans' shockingly easy 3-0 victory in Vienna, a new
alignment anchored by the new captain had the U.S. playing its
best soccer all yearbetter, even, than in its historic 1-0
upset of Brazil in February.
A mainstay during Cup qualifying, Dooley (left) has been promoted to U.S. captain.
"I was happy to see that we played like a unit again," said
Dooley. "For the last few months the team wasn't very close. In
World Cup '94 we were all nobodies. Now everyone is a star on
his MLS team, and you have to get your ego back to normal when
you come to the national team. In Austria there was finally a
feeling that everybody is on the same level, whether he's on the
bench or on the field."
Dooley credited the solidarity both to an infusion of new
players and to Sampson's 3-6-1 scheme. Unlike the U.S.'s old
4-4-2 alignment, in which four defenders played mostly zone, the
3-6-1 requires two defenders to mark their opposing strikers
man-to-man while Dooley, the sweeper, roves like a free safety.
"It's the best way for us to play because we aren't that fast in
the back," says Dooley. "When we played a zone, you could always
say, Hey, that's not my man, it's yours. Now we're more
When Sampson assigned roommates in Vienna, it was no coincidence
that he paired Dooley with defender Eddie Pope, the team's
24-year-old rising star. Pope spent the time absorbing Dooley's
tactical advice and firsthand knowledge of European stars. "With
his experience he can tell me everything I need to know," says
Pope. "When he's on the field, you don't even have to think
sometimes. You just listen to him."
Dooley believes that the revamped, man-marking defense is the
best way to shut down his former countrymen in the Americans'
World Cup opener on June 15. "The Germans have very good speed,
but they don't like it if somebody is right on their heels,"
Dooley says. "On paper we don't have a chance to beat Germany,
but you have to think positive. It's just like the Brazil game.
Anything is possible in soccer."
Issue date: May 4, 1998