Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers did what they had to do last night - score early - and went on to stun the Washington Diplomats, 1-0, in a key North American Soccer League Eastern Division game before 19,216 at RFK stadium.
In a game Washington coach Dennis Viollet said his club had to win to have a successful season and establish itself as a division title contender, the Dips were listless and totally outplayed.
"We didn't create any chances. The problem wasn't finishing our plays, we never got them started," said Viollet. "They were the better club in the first half and they deserved the goal they got."
The Strikers got their goal at 35:18 of the first half when Colin Fowles headed a perfect pass from defender Ray Lugg over Washington defender Don McAllister and past goalie Eric Martin into the left side of the net. It was only Fowles' second goal of the year but it proved to be the difference.
"The ball was knocked out to the fullback (Ray Lugg)," said Fowles, "(David) proctor yelled at me to go to the post. Lugg chipped the ball to me and I just headed it. Washington is tough on defense and the only way for us to score is on a play like that."
Washington was stung early in the season by these same Strikers when Fred Pereira scored to beat them with just 26 seconds gone in the game.
The Strikers have been having their problems lately, especially on the road (three losses in last four games) but ran into a very dull, unenthusiastic Dips team last night.
The offense, which has produced only one goal in the last three games, (defeating San Jose on a shootout and losing to Rochester, 2-1), never forced play or put any pressure on the Striker defense.
Washington, outshot 12-7, managed only two shots in the first half and never came cose to scoring.
"Right now, there is a lack of understanding between ourselves," said forward Mike Lester. "We haven't had any luck. We have to work that much harder and put this one behind us."
Wahsington thought it left its worst performance of the season behind last week at Rochester. But the absence of forward Alan Green (knee ligaments) and injury to midfielder Tony Macken (knee) who was injured early in the first half last night, seriously hampered what little offense the Dips have shown in recent weeks.
The front line of Lester, Jimmy Refern and Bobby Stokes never mounted a serious attack and only Lester had any remote chance of giving the disappointed crowd a chance to cheer.
Lester broke away midway in the first half and appeared to have a shot on goal but instead attempted to get past the last Fort Lauderdale defender and set up a teammate cutting across the center of the net. Of course, no one wearing a Washington uniform was near the crossing pass and the Strikers easily picked off the ball.
For Lauderdale hardly resembled a soccer power but played good defense when it had to and frustrated the Dips at every turn. On one occasion, Washington players passed the ball to one another seven times and went backward on each pass before finally losing it.
The Strikers were not about to let the Dips tie the game as they deployed seven and eight defenders back in the second half to thwart the hosts' scoring attempts.
The loss kept the Dips locked in the cellar of the division with a 5-5 mark and 42 points. The Strikers remain in second place place with a 7-3 record and 57 points. Tampa Bay leads the division with a 7-3 record and 63 points.
Washington entertains the St. Louis Stars Saturday night at RFK.