John Carbray's dream - indoor soccer in Washington - comes true tonight at 8 p.m. when the Washington Diplomats open their indoor schedule at the D.C. Armory against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Carbray, the Diplomats' general manager, has lobbied heavily for indoor soccer and decided to go ahead with a nine-game schedule even after only five teams in the North American Soccer League agreed to participate.
With eight of the nine games at home Carbray will be as interested in what takes place in the stands as on the field.
Tonight's debut will be against the team that compiled the best record in the league last summer. The Strikers finished 19-7 to win the league's Eastern Division after being picked for last in preseason. The Dips occupied that spot.
Gordon Banks, the 38-year-old goal-keeper who came out of a four-year retirement trolead the Strikers last summer, is the backbone of the team. Even though goalies are expected to give up more scores indoors, the battle between Banks and Washington goalie Eric Martin will be important.
It will be especially important for the Dips since many of their top scorers are not here. Alan green and Bobby Stokes, their Nos. 1 and 2 scorers last season, are playing in England.
The man expected to fill that gap is Mike Stojanovic the outstanding forward of the Rochester Lancers. Stojanovic will play indoors for the Dips but will rejoin Rochester for outdoor play.
Team captain Gary Darrell and defenders Roy Willner, Alex Pringle and Jim Steele are the only startees from last summer's team playing indoors.
Tonight's game will also mark the Washington coaching debut of Gordon Bradley. Because of other Armory commitment, Bradley has had only one practice on the indoor surface with his new team.
"You can't really talk strategy when you've only practiced once indoors," Bradley said. "But the indoor game is one where your soccer skills are tested because fo the confined area. One thing you don't want to do is change your habits from outdoors."
The attendance tonight and Sunday, when the teams meet again at 3 p.m., willbe as great a concern to the Dips as the outcome of the contests. Carbray has said the club must draw 5,000 fans a game to break even and the team has promoted the indoor season heavily in recent weeks.
The Strikers beat the Dips twice outdoors last summer, both times by 1-0, and even though they are also missing some players, the Dips' performances against them may give Bradley more of an idea whiuch players he wants to keep around for the outdoor season.
There is nothing on the line tongiht, but Carbray may be worried, anyway. The number of people in the stands will go a long way towards determining whether or not his dream becomes a nightmare.