Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
A visitor to the locker room of the Washington Diplomats who had not seen the game Saturday night would not have guessed that the Dips had dropped a 4-2 decision to the Los Angeles Aztecs.
The Dips had played well and they knew it. Thus, despite the crippling nature of the defeat in terms of their playoff hopes, there were few bowed heads.
"It was just a great soccer match." Washington coach Alan Spavin said. "Anybody who didn't think our lads were magnificent the way they came back is making a mistake."
In the end it was Steve David. the league's leading scorer and the man the Diplomats feared most, who ruined their hopes of a come-from-behind vicotry.
Washington had come from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game at 2-2 a little more than two minutes into the second half and had taken control of the play.
But the Dips could not get the go-ahead goal despite several splendid opportunities and before the home team knew what had hit it. David struck twice in lighting fashion to send most in the RFK crowd of 11,168 home disappointed.
"Actually, their (the Dips') second goal was the best thing that could have happened to us." David, a native of Trinidad. said afterward. "They were pushing forward, and I had more room to work with. I knew I would score then."
Given the extra room, David proved unstoppable. With a little over 13 minutes to be played, he took a pass from midfielder Charlie Cooke and streaked in on goalkeeper Eric Martin. He fired from 10 yards away and cleanly beat the diving Marin. But the ball hit the crossbar and bounced right back to David, who headed the ball into the net as Martin lay helpless. The score came at 76:50.
Not content with a 3-2 lead, David repeated his act 3:10 later. This time he took a pass from George Best, dashed around Don McAllister, and beat Martin on his first try. The goals were Nos. 21 and 22 for David, who leads the North American Soccer League in scoring.
"After we tied the game we got a bit careless, a little impatient," said Dips' captain Gary Darrell, who scored his team's first goal. "We got a little disorganized, and they caught us napping. You can't make mistakes against a team like this."
The late errors wiped out a superb comback by the Dips, who dominated the first 40 minutes of the game, yet found themselves trailing, 2-0 on goals by Cooke and defender Terry Mancini.
Cooke's goal at the 5:25 mark came straight from the textbook as David, triple-teamed in the penalty area, slipped to perfect pass to Cooke, who scored easily from eight yards out.
But Washington refused to fold. Although Tony Macken missed a penalty kick for the Dips and Aztec goalie Bob Rigby made a number of acrobatic saves, the Diplomats persisted.
"That was the thing I liked most, the way we came back," Spavin said. "This was just great soccer.From here on in I fancy us against anyone."
Darrell scored on a Bobby Stokes shot off the post at 42:46 for his second goal of the season, cutting the margin to 2-1. Macken curled a perfect 20-yard shot into the upper right hand corner at 47:11.
That tied the score, 2-2, sent the fans into much cheering and brought the entire Washington team into the offensive zone. Moments later David went into his act and the Aztecs had raised their record, best in the league, to 13-6, and 121 points.