The Washington Diplomats' longest season will come to an end tonight when They take on The Cosmos at 8 p.m. in RFK Stadium.
Some 40,000 people are expected to show to see Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer work their magic. The last time the two teams met, 10 days ago in New Jersey, that threesome and their talented teammates humiliated Washington, 8-2.
"There isn't much confidence left anymore." Dip defender Jim Steele confessed after the team's final workout yesterday. "It's going to be really hard for us against The Cosmos. We just don't have their ability.
"We haven't given up things just yet, but we're near enough to it," he added. "Most of the lads are flying home Sunday and they're thinking about that. I can't be optimistic."
Steele did promise one thing however. "I'm going to take care of Hunt. (Cosmos midfielder Steve) I' going to fix him. We'll see how well he can run when he's horizontal."
Following the 8-2 game, Hunt said Alan Spavin's squad was "the worst team we've come across," and Steele has been awaiting another shot at him.
The Dips have lost their last five games, outscored by a 22-6 margin. What's more, all six Diplomat goals came in the second half of each game after the team was trailing by at least two goals.
Put simply, the Dips have been awful.
The Cosmos come into the contest with a 15-10 record, which is not over-whelming in light of their payroll. But they have played well in their last three outings (all at home) and appear to be jelling. The Dips will probably be without Jim Redfern and second-leading scorer Bobby Stokes. Both have hamstring problems.
The game means little in the standings. The Cosmos need one goal to clinch second place in the North American Soccer League's East Division, but it is unlikely that will be an issue for very long. In the New Jersey game, the Cosmos scored five goals in 43:54, the fastest five goals in league history.
Washington (9-16) has nothing to play for but pride, which was not a sufficient incentive in the last five games. But with the Cosmos, it may be different. Not only did they beat the Dips by a horrendous score last time out, their post-game comments were all in the same vein as Hunt's.
The Cosmos are the second-leading scoring team in the league with 59 goals, as compared with 30 for the Dips. Chinaglia leads the way with 15 goals and eight assists, for 38 points, third in the league. Pele is tied for seventh with 12 goals and three assists for 27 points and Hunt has 26 points. Beckenbauer, playing at midfield most of the time, has 12 points in 15 games and has already been named the league's MVP.
Alan Green leads Washington with nine goals and 22 points.
"If we get a break or two and score a couple, we could win," Spavin said yesterday. "I'm not going to say we will win, though, because I know the dice are stacked against us, I'd be crazy to predict a victory. They just have more talent than we do."