John Kowalski, an interim coach from Poland by way of Pittsburgh, and Dante Washington, a novice forward from Radford University in Virginia, have combined to revive a U.S. soccer team that until last weekend had trouble scoring, much less winning.
It might be artificial respiration, but it was real enough Saturday for the United States to beat Canada, 2-0, before 2,705 at El Camino College.
The margin was not enough to give the United States the championship in the North American Nations Cup. After drawing with Mexico, 2-2, Tuesday, the United States needed a four-goal victory Saturday because of the Mexicans’ 3-0 victory over Canada Thursday. The Cup goes to Mexico on goal-differential.
But the important thing for the U.S. team is that it is scoring, having fun and no longer losing. After failing to score in six consecutive games, the United States has scored six times in the past three.
Most players say it is no coincidence that their resurgence began after Bob Gansler resigned as coach on Feb. 23.
Some want U.S. Soccer Federation officials to drop the interim from the title of Coach Kowalski, who took over the team four days before its 2-0 victory last Saturday in Tampa, Fla., over the South American club champion, Olimpia of Paraguay.
Their effort was joined Saturday by Polish-born Kowalski, who coaches at Robert Morris College but has had most of his success in the indoor game.
Federation officials, however, seem set on Yugoslav Bora Milutinovic because of his international experience. He coached teams in the past two World Cups.
But they have been impressed enough with Kowalski to consider him for a role with the team that could lead to the head coaching job after the 1994 World Cup.
Also crucial to U.S. success has been the 20-year-old Washington. No one doubted his shooting ability after he twice led the NCAA in scoring, but he was not expected to dazzle anyone at the international level yet.
In his first two games, he has scored two goals. He gave the United States the lead in the 14th minute Saturday. The other goal was scored in the 66th minute by Bruce Murray, who is the United States’ all-time leading goal scorer with 13.