"If we beat Rochester Sunday, I think we're in for a long run," said Washington Diplomats coach Dennis Viollet. "I never had any doubts we'd have a fine season once all the players arrived. It was a just of matter of getting everybody together. Soon, we're going to really give it to someone, get five or six goals in one game."
Viollet has reason to be optimistic. The combination of the English "brigade" and a couple of players obtained via trades has produced a five-game winning streak and pushed the Dips back into the thick of the Eastern Division race. Washington is coming off impressive victories over St Louis and San Jose on the road. The club is now 5.3 and tied with Fort Lauderdale for third place in their division with 41 points.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies lead the division with 54 points, eight more than the Cosmos.
Speaking of the Cosmos, the talent-laden New Jersey-based collection of superstars has cemented its position as the North American Soccer League's highest-salaried team. Recently, the Cosmos signed Franz Bechenbauer, West Germany's famed defender, after eight months of negotiations.
European player of the year in 1976, Beckenbauer will join Pele and Giorgia Chinaglia Sunday when the Cosmos take on the Rowdies in a nationally televised match. The 31-year-old Beckenbauer, who will take over the sweeper position, led Germany to the World Cup title in 1974.
Pele, who notched his first hat trick (three goals) in the NASL and the 91st of his illustrious careerr last week, has vaulted to a spot among the top 20 scorers in league history after only two full seasons in the league. The 36-year old Brazilian had 63 points coming into this season. He already has nine points this year for a total of 72 which puts him in the top 10 among active players. Pele has now scored a total of 1,264 goals.
A United States national team has been selected to play West German's World Cup champions at Chicago's Soldier Field June 5. None of the Washington Diplomats players were selected for the U.S. team.
Derek Smethurst of Tampa Bay leads the league in scoring this year with 20 points (10 goals). Steve David of Los Angeles is right behind with 18 points (eight goals and two assists). Bobby Stokes leads the Dips with seven points (three goals, one assist) . . . Bill Mishalow of Los Angeles is the top goalkeeper with a 0.46 goals-against average. Washington's Eric Martin is fourth with a 0.84 average. Martin also has 49 saves and three shutouts . . . overall attendance for the NASL is up 18 per cent over 1976; an average of 12,188 fans have attended each game as compared with 9,998 at this time last season.