The shots came screaming in, eight of them in the first 10 minutes alone, from Marinho, Zico, Roberto, Gil, Rivelino—from half of the canary-shirted heroes of Brazil's national soccer team, it seemed. They were fired with spectacular power and with all the accuracy you might expect from artillerymen pressed into service after two weeks' training. The booming shots put into severe hazard photographers squatting on the end-lines and spectators at Seattle's Kingdome unlucky enough to be seated above and behind the goal defended by Team America. Indeed, the only person not in danger of sudden decapitation was Eric Martin, who was keeping goal for the U.S.
Hardly elegant soccer, but the very futility of the barrage was lending some encouragement to the American side, which, for the second time in six days, had the formidable task of facing an authentic contender for soccer's World Cup. World Cup soccer has not historically been an American strong point, but in the name of the country's 200th birthday—and with a shrewd eye at further boosting soccer's appeal—the U.S. Soccer Federation had conceived the American Bicentennial Soccer Cup. Italy, England and Brazil were invited to send their powerful national teams to compete for the trophy in a round-robin six-city coast-to-coast tournament. The U.S. entry—Team America—was an amalgam of the best professionals from the North American Soccer League, most of them imported Europeans or Latin Americans, with a light seasoning of native U.S. players. And here Team America was, holding its own.
Brazil's shooting continued to be wildly inaccurate for much of this, its second game in the tour. But men like Rivelino and Marinho did not earn their towering status in the sport by putting balls 50 feet wide of the goal through their own inefficiency. What was happening on Friday night at the Kingdome was that they were being so harried by an entirely committed American defense that they were reduced to making wildly speculative shots from so far out that accuracy was impossible.
Team America Coach Ken Furphy had studied the video tape of Brazil's first game, against England at Los Angeles the previous weekend, with some care. Brazil had scored the game's single goal with only seconds of play left, but Furphy had spotted a weakness. "They play their two attacking wing forwards very wide," he said. "I'm going to put close man-to-man coverage on those wingers. My boys are very determined." The boys he meant were Bobby Smith, a New Jersey-born defenseman for the New York Cosmos, and Stewart Jump, a Tampa Bay Rowdies import from England. Between them, as center-backs, would be Bobby Moore, the ex-England World Cup captain now also with the Cosmos, and Mike England, a Welsh international player with the Seattle Sounders. Furphy was worried about this second pairing. The two had never played together before.
The same objection, however, applied on the grand scale to all of Team America. Furphy had had just three weeks in which to set up the side. NASL coaches had sent him recommendations and he had picked a squad of 20, but they had had only eight practices together before their first game with Italy at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., and it showed. Drastically. Before that first match Furphy learned that he would have to do without two former English stars; both George Best of the Los Angeles Aztecs and Rodney Marsh of the Rowdies had withdrawn for "personal reasons." This meant that though he had the Cosmos' Giorgio Chinaglia and Pel� up front, he was still short of strikers. John Kowalik, the Polish player from the Chicago Sting, was fast and courageous but small. Stewart Scullion, a Scot with Tampa, was a good dribbler who would take a defenseman on, but not a real penetrator. In midfield the situation was even more tricky: only Dave Clements, an ex-Irish international with the Cosmos, was a recognized player in the position; English-born Keith Eddy of the Cosmos, playing alongside him, was strictly a sweeper, a utility defenseman.
Team America had a long afternoon against Italy. In the first half Pel� was ineffective, having the ball taken off his toes by Midfielder Romeo Benetti, misplacing passes, failing to link with Chinaglia, hitting a free kick casually right into the Italian defensive wall. Constructive U.S. midfield play was nonexistent, the defense confused. Inevitably the Italian goals came. Four of them.
Four goals are hard to alibi, but Ken Furphy tried his best. "They were two poor goals in the first half," he said afterward, referring to a pair of bad lapses by Bobby Rigby, the U.S.-born goalie for the Cosmos. The first came when Rigby failed to gather a Fabio Capello shot cleanly and let in the rebound, the other when he seemed to rugby-tackle Paolino Pulici, who had no problem scoring on the subsequent penalty shot.
Rigby's game had been a nightmare. Six days later, pent up in a Seattle hotel room after learning that he would not be in goal against Brazil, he unburdened himself of some of his feelings about soccer in the U.S. "We never have any time together," he said. "They never give us any preparation. And we've had less background than anybody. I've played five months a year for the last three years. Didn't even play professional ball until I came out of college. What we need is as much exposure to good players and coaching as we can get. Our game really needs it." He was talking not only about himself but Bobby Smith, his teammate on the Cosmos. Smith was with him in his 11th-floor hotel room—or at least halfway in. Smith was perched in the open window, gazing down at the people below. "Hey, idiot," shouted Rigby, "come away from there."
Rigby was bitter, too, about the number of foreign importations into American clubs. "As long as people come over here they're going to be dictating to us," he said. "We have this rule that there's six American citizens on a side and that's the only protection we have. Push the number up? They say so, they say so. Every team has six American players—on the bench."
And indeed it was a foreign player, a Scot, Eric Martin, who took Rigby's place at the Kingdome against the Brazilians. Not many goalkeepers would have envied him the honor. The Brazil team is not quite the international force that it once was, and it would not be likely to score many victories on a European tour against the likes of West Germany. Nevertheless, against Furphy's foreign legion it had more than enough power in reserve to make a goalie miserable.