The Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who have suffered an abundance of injuries and a dearth of victories in the young soccer season, limp in RFK Stadium at 2:30 p.m. today for a match with the Washington Diplomats.
The Strikers have managed but one goal in dropping their first two contests, while the stingy Dips have yet to yield a goal in two victories.
The game is the first nationally televised NASL game of the year, but a local blackout will be in effect. The game can be heard on WELL-1310 A.M.
The surprise team in the league last year, the Strikers compiled the best won-lost record (19-7), finished first in total defense (allowed 29 goals), tied for first in points scored (161) and fifth in goals (49). Their title hopes ended abruptly in an 8-3 first-round thrashing by the eventual league champion Cosmos.
But Fort Lauderdale was so confident it would be able to duplicate the '77 season, the front office elected to stand pat with virtually the same team that finished the year.
Little did the Strikers realize that injuries to almost everyone except the team manager and secretary would leave them gasping and sending SOS calls to England.
Only one of the newly acquired signees, defender Andy Rowland, will make his NASL debut today.
"We're concerned right now. Injuries have forced us to change out lineup everywhere," said Ron Newman, the Strikers coach. "You have to keep shuffling players until you come up with something. Just keep pulling names out of the hat."
At least six of the Strikers have played more than one position. The one encouraging sign for Newman has been his team's proclivity to shoot. They outshot the Cosmos, 23-17, and Detroit, 23-7, but only Nick Bodonczy has found the back of the net - once.
A 7-0 whitewash by the Cosmos to open the season and an embarrasing 2-1 overtime loss at home to the expansion Detroit Express left the Strikers talking to themselves.
"The players are getting a bit edgy. The losses plus all of the changes we've had to make have really affected out rhythm," Newman said. "Today we'd like to take only two shots and make them both and at the same time give Washington 40 shots and no goals."
The Strikers front line is hurting. Forwards George Dewsnit, George Nanchoff. Norman Piper and Colin Fowles, the big four responsible for the Strikers' success last year, are injured.
Newman isn't sure just who will play today. Piper was pronounced fit for the game but reinjured his leg during a Friday practice session and is doubtful.
Washington, attempting to tie the club record of three consecutive shutouts, is not about to shed any tears for the visitors. Three years ago Washington missed out on the playoffs when seven starters were felled by injuries late in the year.
Gordon Bradley, the Diplomat coach, is not about to write off the Strikers.
"Just because they've gotten off to a bad start doesn't mean they can't snap right back," Bradley said. "But at least all of our players are fit and confident."
Ray Graydon, out with a leg injury last week, will rejoin Paul Cannell, Bobby Stokes and Ken Bakic up front.
The Dip defensive unit - Roy Willner, Mike Dillon. Tommy O'Hara and Jim Steele and goalkeeper Bill Irwin - has been remarkable in the shutouts of Philadelphia (3-0) and Chicago (1-0).