Many of the Washington Diplomats who ran a jubilant victory lap Saturday night, after their stunning 2-1 season-ending victory over the Cosmos were making their final appearance in RFK Stadium in the red-and-white uniform with "Dips" emblazoned across the chest.
In the coming weeks and months, the Dips will change their personnel radically. They probably will change coaches this week and they may be forced to make changes in the front office.
Alan Spavin, who took over from Dennis Viollet as coach after 15 games, finished his tenure with a 4-7 record, the team losing five of its last six games after Spavin was ordered to play the Americans more.
More importantly, Spavin was hampered by the decision on July 16 to drop veteran midfielders Tony Macken and John Kerr.
The Dips had won their third game in four outings, a 3-0 rout of San Jose, when Macken and Kerr were given the ax. Both critized general manager John Carbray and team president Steve Danzansky for the move, as did Spavin.
As Kerr had predicted, the team's when Macken and Kerr were given morale was dealt a crushing blow by the suddenness of the movies. It never recovered.
Carbray had insisted that Spavin had an excellent chance of returning as coach next season. Others within the organization say Spavin has no chance, and never had one.
"John Carbray wants his people, and Spavin isn't his people," said one source close to the team. "It's inevitable that Carbray will bring in a new coach. If I know him he'll do something bizarre, hire an American or a guy 14 feet tall."
Carbray isn't saying what he will do. But Spavin, who plans to return to England on Thursday, says he would rather be a player "Somewhere" next year than remain with the Dips in a noncoaching capacity.
"I would love to have a shot at coaching from the beginning of the season," Spavin said Saturday night. "I think if I'd been coach from the beginning, things would've been different. We haven't been playing with our strongest side (team) the last few weeks so I don't think it's fair to judge me on those results. I'm still pessimistic (about retaining his job) though."
The 1977 soccer season, which started with high hopes for the Dips, has ended in total failure on the field and the knowledge that unless that failure is righted next season the progress made off the field will be wasted.
Despite their 10-16 record, the Diplomats easily broke their attendance records, drawing an average of 13.058 per game, including 31,283 for The Cosmos. Impressive figures, although many tickets were given away or sold at discount prices.
On the field, the team fell far short of its goals. A year ago, playing in Woodson Stadium in Fairfax, with a much smaller budget, the Dips finished 14-10 and made the North American Soccer League playoffs. This year they were the first team in the loague mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
What went wrong? What changes will be made to correct the numerous mistakes made this year? At present no one in the organization has an answer for either question.
"Not having our entire team here at the beginning of the season hurt us, no question about it," Danzansky said. "We didn't begin to play together until mid-season."
The reason The Dips didn't have their entire team at the beginning of the year was that the English League season overlapped the NASL season.
The Dips stumbled early, losing three of their first four games, all on shutouts. English League players began showing up at that point and the team promptly won four games in a row. But that was it. The offense fell apart, the team lost seven of its next eight and found itself with a new coach and all but eliminated from the playoffs.
Under Spavin the team revived briefly and had raised its record to 9-11 when the Kerr and Macken bombshell hit. "The team had been gaining momentum, had started to really jell and management has come along and ruined it all in one swoop," Kerr said at the time. "This will affect everyone's morale."
Kerr's prediction proved to be on the mark. The Dips lost their next five games and looked bad. The team missed Macken at midfield and the specter of their sudden exit seemed to hang over the players' heads.
The club's explanation for dropping Kerr and Macken was a decision to go with younger players and get away from using loan players from England. Macken was on loan and his contract could not be purchased. Whatever their reasoning for the move, the general feeling among the players was that the whole situation had been handled shoddily.
"I've never had anything like this happen during my pro career, especially so quickly," Darrell added. "But I've never had anything like this season happen before either."
Now that the season is over the question becomes, what will Danzansky and Carbray try now? Danzansky has said that he will recommend to the club's board that it expand the budget in order to recruit and sign better foreign players.
Looking at the Dips roster, few seem assured of returning. Green will be back if he wants to return. Mark Liveric is probably safe, if only because Carbray traded Washington's all-time leading scorer Leroy DeLeon to get him from San Jose. He may not give up on Diveric easily.
Several other players appear relatively safe unless they are used as trade bait. They include forward Bobby Stokes, and defenders Kenny Hill, Ray Willner and Jimmy Steele, goalie Eric Martin and Darrel. Everyone else is expendable by trade, sale or release.
Who will become coach? Part of the reason for Viollet's downfall, many say, was his inability to convince Carbray to let him run the playing side of things and Carbray run the business side. Carbray wanted more access to the players than Viollet wanted to give him. The new coach will do things Carbray's way.
Spavin was Viollet's best friend on the team when he was coach.
Many player blame Carbray for Viollet's failure and those loyal to Spavin will probably resent him further if Spavin doesn't remain as coach.
Carbray's relationship with the players was perhaps best summed up the night the Dips lost a superbly played game to the Los Angeles Aztec's, 4-2.
After the game six players came up on the elevator to the team's RFK stadium offices. As they got off the elevator, Carbray got on. All looked at one another. Not a word was spoken.
Put simply, Carbray is going to clean house. The coach will almost undoubtedly be changed, many players will be traded or dropped. Three front office officials who came from San Jose with Carbray have left and more may be leaving shortly.
That leaves Carbray and Danzansky with something similar to an expansion situation. They must go out and find a new team.
Why is the club in this situation? Mistakes. The Macken-Kerr dropping was an out-and-out boner. But it wasn't the only one. The recruiting was handled badly. Mediocre players were signed, although good ones were available.
Carbray blames Viollet for the non-acquisition of the league's leading scorer, Steve David of Los Angeles. Viollet advised against purchasing David when the Dips were ready to make the deal in January.
Carbray must share the blame. As general manager he could have gone ahead and made the purchase.
Carbray has done an outstanding job putting people in the stands this past season with promotional ideas. On the field he has not produced. Because of mistakes he finds himself with a poor quality, dissension-racked team. Promotions can hide a bad team for a while but the Dips must win if they are to succeed over the long run.
Now, they are as far from that goal as they could possibly be. More distant than they were at this time a year ago.
On the field, the team has gone backward this season. Turning it in the right-direction is going to be a difficult task.