Archibald paces Gatos to upset

Jonathan Rand
Date Published: 
Miami News

Warren Archibald's hair was full of grass, the result of two spills on the Miami-Dade Junior College North field that left him with a couple of swollen ankles. The small Miami Gatos forward is difficult to catch, not so difficult to knock down.

What few good moments the Gatos have had offensively have usually been Archibald's good moments. Yesterday he was brilliant, scoring midway through the second half to break a scoreless tie and applying constant pressure on the St. Louis defense in a 2-0 victory over the Stars, the top team in the North American Soccer League.

Archibald finished the season tied as the league's third highest scorer, with six goals and five assists, and the Gatos finished their season the NASL's eighth best defensive club. Considering there are only eight teams in the league, their 3-8-3 record is not surprising. Clearly, Archibald and the Gatos need a lot of help.

"Right after this game we're gonna sit down and start planning for next season," said Gatos owner John Bilotta, who needs about a half-dozen new players, a few thousand fans and a coach.

During most of this season the Gatos have been unable to get the ball out of their end of the field. Yesterday, particularly in the second half, the offense came alive as the Gatos finished with 29 shots on goal, as many as they had in their two previous games.

Unfortunately for the Gatos, hardly anyone was around to watch the effort. Fewer than 500 fans, some with umbrellas to protect from the sun, showed up for the regular-season finale.

"We've got to know each other," said Archibald, explaining that a year's experience should make for a more cohesive offense next season. Leroy Deleon, whose penalty kick provided yesterday's second goal, his fifth of the season, is the only forward with whom Archibald has played the entire season.

But, according to veteran defenseman Willie Evans, the Gatos need a lot more than familiarity in order to start winning. "We need about six or seven players. And you need a strong bench," he said. Yesterday the Gatos' reserve numbered three.

"We have so many amateurs on the team," said Evans, referring to the clubs five first-year players. "You need experienced players. In soccer you have the ball maybe 10 per cent of the time. It's the 90 per cent when you don't have the ball where experience comes in."

Next year the Gatos will probably be without the experience of Evans, one of the league's best defensemen the past few seasons, but slowed much of this year by injuries. The cost of living in Miami, he says, is beyond the means of an NASL player. "They don't pay anything in this league," he said.

There will undoubtedly be several new players on the Gatos' payroll next season. They need at least two forwards, a defenseman, another mid-field player and perhaps a goalie.

With Archibald and Deleon there is a nucleus of a good offense, but a big man is needed to penetrate rival defenses. "It would be good to get a big center forward to bring the ball down for the shorter forwards," said Archibald.

The mid-field is the Gatos' most solid area with Billy Fraser, Dave Meichick and Roberto Aguirre all steady performers while rookies Alain Maca, headed for the U.S. World Cup camp, and Rafael Arguelles are both promising defensemen.

The first new face the Gatos need is a coach, to succeed Willie Fleming and general manager Norm Sutherland, who have been sharing the post on an interim basis since Sal DeRosa resigned in June after severe criticism by the players. With a skillful coach and some more capable players, the Gatos may no longer, like Archibald, be so easily pushed around.

"I'm used to it by now," says Archibald. "They do it all the time and when I complain about it, sometimes the referee gives me the warning." Among officials the sincerity of the volatile forward is a bit suspect. "So I get kicked year-round," he said.

Next year, perhaps, the Gatos will start kicking back.