Paul Cannell scored two goals before being ejected and the Washington Diplomats, despite playing a man short, opened their North American Soccer League season yesterday with a 3-0 thumping of the Philadelphia Fury.
Ray Graydon assisted on both Cannell goals and scored the third in the closing moments of the game, watched by 18,191 in Veterans Stadium.
Cannell, the Dips' leading scorer in 1976 with 13 goals (he did not play for them last season) was given a yellow card in the first half for running into Fury goalkeeper Jimmy Miller. He drew another yellow card and automatic ejection from the game, for bumping Miller shortly after intermission. He was not given a red card, which would have meant a one-game suspension.
"I wasn't out there taking any cheap shots," said Cannell. "I just beat him (Miller) in the air for the ball. The referes got caught up in the flow of things and called them (the fouls). He was just doing his job. I guess I'll get a label now but that won't bother me."
Cannell's ejection didn't sit well with Washington coach Gordon Bradley. "I don't stand for that. I don't like it," he said.
Bradley's immediate problem then was changing his alingment from 11 men to 10 men. League rules don't permit replacements for ejected players.
"We coordinated well and talked to each other," said defender Roy Willner. "If someone got free, someone else would jump out on him. After Paul got ejected, we laid back a while then we forgot about it and started to attack again."
The Fury dominated play for the first 20 minutes.
While Washington was adjusting to the slick AstroTurf surface, Philadelphia was putting pressure on the visitors' defensive back line. Several passes were dumped inside the Washington goal area but the Fury was wither slow reacting or a Dip defender arrived in time to knock away the ball.
In its anxiety to score its first goal, the expansion team was called for being offsides eight times. It hardly mattered, all the shots went astray.
Washington, which suffered through a 10-16 season last year mainly because of its inability to score, finally began to show a little spark at the other end.
Cannell stationed himself in his favorite spot, directly in front of the goalie, and waited for the first Fury mistake.
It came with 21:28 gone in the half.
Graydon, who with Cannell is expected to carry most of the scoring lead, lofted a pass toward the Fury goal.
Miller beat Cannell to the ball and went down on one hop. But the ballbounced off Miller's chest and Cannell easily booted it iinto the net past the prone Miller.
"That first goal was ridiculous," said Fury striker Peter Osgood. "You work out there and someone gets a goal like that. The third one was bad, too."
The game was out of reach long before then. Cannell and Graydon had hooked up again at the 38:54 mark for the second score. Graydon, playing the right wing, kicked another high lob to Cannell who headed the ball on one hop into the right corner of the net. The Dips led, 2-0, at intermission.
While Bradley was understandably upset with his center forward, he didn't hesitate to praise Cannell's play.
"He is a deceptive player. He can hang in the air and has a lot of power behind his ball," said the first-year coach.
Graydon's goal came after fine plays by Bobby Stokes and Ken Mokgojoa, who replaced Mike Bakic late in the second half.
Stokes outfoxed his defender in the right corner and passed to Mokgojoa, streaking in toward the goal. The South African speedster faked a kick and allowed the abll to go by to where Graydon had only an open net in front of him.
That goal gave the Dips the maximum of nine points and put them in first place in the National Conference Eastern Division.
The Dips' next game will be next Sunday against the Chicago Sting at 2:30 at RFK