The Washington Diplomats graciously accepted two "gift" goals and went on to blank the Connecticut Bicentennials, 3-0, in a North American Soccer League game before a crowd of 6,508 yesterday at RFK Stadium.
Washington coach Dennis Viollet was not exactly thrilled over his team's performance but admitted he would "take it (victory) anyway it comes."
The win evened the Dips' mark at 1-1 and earned them the maximum nine bonus points. Washington has an excellent opportunity to pick up more ground in the tight Eastern Division Sunday when it hosts the Tampa Bay Rowdies (1-1 and 10 points) at RFK. The Cosmos are 2-1 with 16 points and Fort Lauderdale is 2-0 with 17 points.
"We needed a win," said Viollet. "I hope this one gives us the confidence we need to play Tampa Bay. Then again, I don't worry about them."
Viollet's worries surfaced early yesterday as his team was being manhandled and outhustled in the opening minutes of the game.
The Bi's outshot Washington, 8-4, in the first half. Had not Washington goalie Eric (Goldfinger) Martin, credited with just one save in the Dip's 2-0 loss last week to Toronto, came up with several defensive gems, the visitors may have escaped with a win instead of going down to defeat in their season opener.
Santiago Formoso missed two attempts inside the penalty area and Martin grabbed a header try by striker Don Gardner and deflected a Larry coyne 15-footer to keep Connecticut from taking a lead.
The Dips got their first break at the 34:24 mark when defender Henry McCully tripped Washington striker Peter Silvester in the penalty area.
Connecticut was not in agreement with the call and felt even worse when Silvester blasted his free-kick attempt past Bi goalkeeper James Barron. It was the Dips' first goal of the season.
"How can you call a foul after the ball is kicked away?" asked an upset player-coach Bobby Thompson. "it was never a penalty. Washington was never in the game until that call."
If the first goal was tainted, then the second score was straight out of fantasyland.
The Big had just begun to lose some of their early sting when Washington applied the coup de grace. Alan Spavin, the Dips' field general, volleyed a high pass from the left sideline to fleet Gary Darrell, who was streaking down the center of the field. Formoso, one of the few players in the NASL who can match Darrell step for step, leaped to deflect the ball. But it caromed off his shin from about 25 yards out and sailed over the surprised barton's head. Washington led; 2-0 with 4:37 left in the first half.
"I just tried to clear it and it hit off my shin," said Formoso. "They had been trying to sping him (Darrell) all up and the ball went over his head," just happened my goalie was coming up and the ball went over his head."
The Dips, playing well in spots, picked up the tempo in the second half. Silvester, Darrell and Don McAllister just missed on several close-in attempts.
Early in the second half, McAllister hit a line drive that nipped the top of the cross bar and dropped directly in front of the Connecticut net. Silvester, positioned perfectly, played the volley, but it too bounced off the bar.
Connecticut's one big scoring chance came late in the game when Greg Downs slipped a ground ball past Martin, some 15 yards away from the goal line. The ball rolled untouched and hit the bar. McAllister finally booted the ball away. The Bi's managed the same type of play early in the game when Martin strayed away again to help out on defense.Victor Moia had an almost certain goal but Roy Willner, who started on defense, chased the ball down and flicked it away.
Washington finally made good on its next bounce. Barron stopped a Leroy DeLeon shot from 15 feet away, but the impact sent him tumbling to the turf. The ball dropped right in front of Silvester again and this time the Englishman bombed it home left-footed to give the home team its final goal at 79:11.