The tables are turned on the Toros

Jonathan Rand
Date Published: 
Miami News

In three games the Miami Toros have gone from the highest-scoring team in the North American Soccer League to one that cannot score at all.

Two respectable 1-0 losses at the season's start suggested to the Toros they were perhaps just a break or two away from approximating the team which last year scored 47 goals. On Wednesday night, however, they regressed in a 3-0 loss to the Washington Diplomats and became the first Miami team in the franchise's five years to be shut out three straight games.

"When you get beat 1-0 or 2-0, then maybe you have an excuse," said coach Greg Myers, "but they dominated us right from the beginning."

As Miami goalie Bill Nuttall could appreciate best, the Diplomats took 20 shots on goal compared to the Toros' measly eight.

"You know how it was against New York?" Nuttall asked, referring to the final 20 minutes of the opener, when Miami, feeling the effects of no exhibition games, found itself wearily confined to its end of the field. "Well, it was that way for 70 minutes. They were just coming down our throat. It could've easily been 3-0 in the first 20 minutes."

The Diplomats were unable to score for a half, but scored two goals within the first seven minutes of the second half. For the Toros, it was an unsettling transposition of a season ago.

"I know how other teams feel, because that's the way we did things last year," said Nutall, then the backup goalie. "We would control the game for 20 or 25 minutes at a time. When it happens to you, it's an uncomfortable feeling, to say the least."

The Toros will be seeking a more comfortable feeling on Sunday at Tamiami Stadium when they will play the Boston Minutemen (0-0) at 4 p.m. Boston has been forced to postpone its first two home games for lack of a home field and opens tomorrow night, visiting the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Nuttall could be excused if he feels like he is pitching for the Baltimore Orioles.

"Last year we were so confident, we knew we'd score," said Nuttall, then the backup goalie. "We tended not to be so careful. We knew if we made a mistake, we'd get a goal to make up for it. This year we haven't had that luxury."

The Toros consensus is that more aggression is necessary. "This league's a very hard league, physically," said midfielder Steve Baumann." You can have all the skills in the world, but if you're getting beat to the ball they don't do you any good."

By shaking up his lineup, Myers is hoping to awaken the skills of a team he coached to the playoffs last season. Baumann is one of six players Myers has tried at midfield and on Sunday he will try a seventh. Roberto Aguirre, an all-league midfielder two years ago before his switch to defender, will return to his original position.

"We've got to strengthen midfield," Myers said. "We're not getting that extra shot on goal. We get one shot and then we're on defense. We can't get out of the hole."

Myers, in an effort to get more ball control from his midfielders, added a fourth after forward David Proctor was sidelined with a shoulder injury against New York. That left Steve David and Enrique Cassaretto with a big job as strikers. "Cassaretto had nine shots in the New York game. He hasn't had nine in the two games since then," Myers said.

To beef up his front line, Myers has reverted to the orthodox three forwards and is returning Warren Archibald to striker after a brief, unsuccessful experiment as a midfielder.

The move became inevitable after the Toros took just eight shots the other night after totaling 38 in their first two games. "We just go for one attempt," said Baumann. "Unfortunately, we've been playing like that for two years and have gotten into some bad habits. We don't look for a weak spot and probe it. We keep trying to feed the ball to Steve David with two guys on him all the time." David led the league in scoring last year with 23 goals and six assists.

The other night's loss was prolonged when the lights failed to work at the Diplomats' Fairfax, Va., stadium. Officials allowed the game to start in twilight, but sopped play midway through the first half because of insufficient light. After a 45-minute delay, the lights were turned on. But the Toros remain in the dark.