When the Washington Diplomats, who lost to Team Hawaii, 4-2, Tuesday night, dropped Tony Macken and Johnny Kerr from their roster last weekend, there was speculation that the Dips' management had given up on the 1977 season.
Team president Steve Danzansky and general manager John Carbray vigorously denied this. They admitted they are looking to the future but emphasized they still are intent on winning games this season.
Nevertheless, more evidence to the contrary surfaced Tuesday night. The Diplomats started Bob Stetler in goal. Stetler had totaled only 22 minutes of playing time this season before meeting Team Hawaii in Honolulu.
As Eric Martin, who had started 54 consecutive Washington games in the net dating back to 1975, watched from the bench, Stetler was bombarded with 37 shots.
Coach Alan Spavin said before the game that he was going to give some of the younger players on the team "a taste of the NASL" on this road trip, but no one dreamed that Martin, perhaps Washington's steadiest player all season, would be one of the benched starters.
The only other new starter was midfielder Randy Garber, who replaced the departed Macken at midfield.
The game itself was all Team Hawaii. The home team opened the scoring at 14:47 when Jim Henry beat Stetler on a penalty kick. The shot was set up when Dip defender Jum Steele tripped Chris Dangerfield in the penalty box.
Bobby Stokes cut the margin to 2-1 with his fifth goal of the season and his first since June 11. The score was unassisted and came at 53:40.
But before the Dips could entertain any serious hopes of a further comeback, Team Hawaii scored again. Peter Nover, set up by Brian Tinnion, made it 3-1 at 58:35 and Keith Coleman, made it 4-1 at 80.24. Gary Darrell's third goal of the season at 83:43 on a pass from Garver finished off the scoring.
To add insult to injury, Steel, who had just returned from a seven-game absence Saturday, was given a yellow card at 68:21. That brought his penalty-point total to 18. Under league rules, he will have to sit out Wednesday's game with Cosmos, unwelcome news for the Dips.
Washington's record for the season dropped to 9-12 and 80 points while Team Hawaii, still in th running for a Southern Divisiln playoff berth, is now 10-13 with 97 points.
The Dips will be in POrtland Friday night.
It was learned yesterday that Macken is off to Dallas rather than England as had been expected. The Dips have traded him to the Tornado. 15-6, and on top of the Western Division, for "future considerations."