By Krystina Lucido
A screenwriter could not have written the story better. Thirty years ago, the Post 38 Under-19 boys' soccer team made history for the United States in Germany on a day when everyone back home was also celebrating what the Americans had accomplished.
Three decades later, those same boys -- now men -- will come back together to celebrate their accomplishment.
"As far I know, we're the only team ever to win a tournament outside the United States, not only from the state of Maryland, but from the United States," said Lonnie Nelson, who was a co-captain and defenseman for the team. "At least we were the first team from the United States to win a cup outside the United States. … Plus, it was on the Fourth of July, so that made it a little bit sweeter."
Post 38, a club team made up of boys from Patapsco, Dundalk, Sparrows Point and Overlea high schools and led by coach Paul Scardina, hosted teams from Monchengladbach, West Germany, and Espergaerde, Denmark, in 1981. When the Europeans lost all games against the Dundalk team and wanted to exact revenge the next year, Post 38 obliged.
To make matters more challenging, Post 38 arrived in Monchengladbach in 1982 to a 100-keg beer festival the evening before the tournament, the Germans' attempt to handicap the team they felt was the underdog.
Teams from Israel, Holland and West Germany all competed in the tournament. The United States beat Germany, 1-0, on a goal by Post 38 striker Jimmy Hoos during the first round, and won a 3-0 shutout against the Germans during the second.
It seemed the U.S. path was set to run the tournament, but a curveball thrown during the semifinals could have stifled the U.S. force. Post 38 was in control of the game against West Germany, with a 4-1 lead, when goalie Roger Duncan got kneed in the face. He suffered three facial fractures and was forced to fly home on an emergency flight.
"We only took one goalkeeper," Nelson said, "so when Roger got hurt in the semifinals in the first half, coach turned around and he wanted to put me in goal, but I was in the middle of the defense, so he said: 'I can't do that. I got to keep you guys as the fullbacks.' So he went to the bench and asked, 'Does anybody want to play goal?'
"One of the players sitting on the bench, a guy named Mark Elliott. Of course, he was little then and skinny. He stands up and says, 'I'll play goal.' "
With the smallest guy on the team in as the new goalie, Post 38 managed to hold its 4-1 lead and set out for the championship game against Nemlear, Holland, a junior team for the professional Ajax Soccer Club. It was a pure shutout through two overtimes before going to penalty kicks.
Holland scored on its first shot, but Post 38 defenseman Marc Zlotkowski hit one, too. Elliott missed another shot for a 2-1 Holland lead, but co-captain John Schirmer hit his and Elliott caught the next one. When Nelson hit one, Post 38 had a 3-2 lead, until another went past Elliott for the 3-3 tie. Striker Gary Rice's try went wide, as did Holland's next shot, so it was all up to Hoos, who had made five goals during the tournament. His was the game-winning kick.
In October, the Old Timer's Soccer Association of Maryland will honor the Post 38 Under-19 team -- all now bordering on the Under-50 team -- at its fall membership meeting at Parkville Heritage Gardens. Most still have the sweatsuits they wore all those years ago, and the trophy Charley Eckman awarded them on their return from Germany.
"It was 30 years ago," Nelson said. "Most people forget about this stuff, but we're going to have over 40 people show up to the event in October, and I'm just blown away that that many guys would still No. 1 be around, No. 2 be alive and No. 3 still would care to want to come out to something like that.
"It's not like other sports where once you go away for school, high school or college, you never see them or talk to them again. The soccer guys, for the most part, stay in touch, and when we have different events, we all come out and support each other, no matter who's doing what."
More Front Row:
• First SquashWise Rally Brings In Big Bucks
• Soccer Champs Slate 30-Year Anniversary
• Ex-Terp Ace Francis Honors His Hometown
• Liberto Slugs Homers For Designated Hitters
• Swing For The Fences, But Don't Forget Heels
• Keeping Pools Clean Is Not An Easy Task
Issue 174: June 2012