"No coach can guarantee victories but I can guarantee the Diplomats will play entertaining soccer in 1978," said Washington's first-year coach Gordon Bradley yesterday. "And if we should happen to lose, we'll know we've given 150 percent doing it."
Bradley's revamped lineup will be unveiled today against the Philadelphia fury in a North Amercian Soccer League opener at Veterans Stadium, 2 p.m.
The game will be televised on WTTG-TV-5 and broadcast on WTOP-1500.
The '77 Dips were a dismal bunch, scoring 31 goals and surrendering 48. Washington finished last in the four-team Eastern Division with an 10-16 record.
"We definitely needed help offensively. i can't say these players will score but they have a histroy of doing so," said Bradley.
On paper the fiesty Englishman has assembled a fine front line. Paul Cannell, who led the Dips in scoring two years ago when they earned their only post season playoff berth, is back. He will be joined by Ray Graydon, who scored more than 100 goals with Coventry City and Aston Villa in England and Canadian Mike Bakic.Bobby Stokes (six goals last year) will be the "fourth forward" in Bradley's 4-2-4 alignment.
"These are far more skillful players than the ones here two years ago," said the 24-year old Cannell. "I'm coming off my best year in England and we will be much better than the team last year. "We'll fit together."
Andries Maseko and Ken Mokgojoa, two extemely quick one-on-one ball-control masters from South Afria, lack NASL experience, but before the season hits the midway mark could be pushing for a starting slot. Veteran Art Welch, who could be used at forward or midfield, injured his knee during an exhibition game and will be lost for 6 to 10 weeks.
The defense is set. Returnees Jim Steele and Roy Willner will be flanked by Mike Dillon, who played the last three seasons with the Cosmos, and Scottish first division player Tommy O'Hara.
"We're as far or farther ahead than any club in the league in preparation. It is just a matter of working together," said Bradley. "We haven't had all of these fellows here for pracice all winter. But we've got the hard stuff in and we're ready to play."
Bradley's defensive unit received a setback when goalkeeper Eric Martin broke his leg during an indoor game and was declared out for the season. But Bill Irwin, a gangly 6-foot-3, 203 pound experienced keeper from Ireland, was signed and has been beaten out Bob Stetler, Martin's backup last year.
The Dips are still hurting somewhat in the midfield. Canadian Carmine Marcantonio, Yugoslavian Sakib Viteskic and Manuel Roa from Mexico are battling for the two starting berths. Marcantonio had one spot locked up but sprained an ankle and may not play today. If not, Roa and Viteskic will handle the midfield duties.
Bradley worked his team on the AstroTurf surface at Redskin Park in Virginia earlier in the week to prepare for the Veterans Stadium surface.
The hard, slick surface took its toll on the Washington players, leaving Marcantonio, Graydon, Backic, O'Hara and Willner limping with strained muscles.
"I expect all of them to play. None of the injuries are serious," said Bradley.
The Fury, financed by a group of rock stars including Paul Simon, Rick Wakeman and Peter Framptom, are the successors to the defunct Atoms. The Atoms won the NASL title in 1973 but hit a quagmire of financial problems and folded.
One of six expansion teams this year, Philadelphia has put together a good crop of players. Peter Osgood, a forward, and midfielder Johnny Giles, when he gets his official release from his Irish team, are expected to be the nucleus of the team.
The Fury also have added some local flavor. Starting in goal will be Jimmy Miller form Penn, Forward Rick Reice from Penn State and defender Brooks Cryder from Philadelphia Textile also are expected to start.
The Dips' next game will be against the Chicago Sting at RFK Stadium Sunday, April 9, at 2:30 P.M.