Just how good are the Washington Diplomats? Despite owning a 3-0 record and resting atop the National Confetrence's Eastern Division with 25 points, there are fans, as evidenced by a total attendance of 19,248 for two home games thus far, who are reserving judgment.
The Diplomats hopes to convince a few more folk for real today when they host the Minnesota Kicks at RFK stadium at 2:30.
The game will be broadcast on WEEL-Radio-1310.
It's hard to say how good we are yet," said defender Roy Willner, one of two original Dips. "We just have to keep the flow going. I can't say we'll win 25 of 30 games, but we have the personnel to be a good . . . team."
Washington has been impressive in its first three games. Willner and his aggressive mates in the back have allowed only one goal, that coming when Mike Dillon and Tom O'Hara got their signals crossed and allowed Fort Lauderdale to score in last week's 4-1 victory.
"It wasn't even intended to be a shot. He (David Irving) just made a great shot," said O'Hara.
The Dips' defense will face their toughest test of the young season. Alan Willey, an all-NASL player, has been one of the bright spots for the 0-2 visitors. Minnesota was blanked, 1-0, by the Colorado Caribous and, three days later, lost to Dallas, 4-3. Willey accounted for all three Kick goals against the Tornado.
"I was encouraged by our play in Dallas. But we have always been a slow-starting club," said Kick Coach Freddie Goodwin. "If you look back, we had a losing record in April in both '76 and '77. SO this is nothing new to us."
Minnesota, Western Division titlist in both years of its existence, also has some injury problems. Goalkeeper Geoff Barnett, with 15 shutouts in two seasons, and defenders Steve Litt and Ron Webster all are listed doubtful for today. Four other projected starters on loan from English clubs will not join the team until later this month.
"Washington will be tough for us. We just need to eliminate a few mistakes in the back and we'll be fine," said Goodwin.
"I'm not surprised Washington is doing so well. They're very aggressive in the back and to beat them we'll have to match them in that area."
The Dips have been aggressive. A total of 63 fouls (opponents have 45) bear that out. Washington players have also been slapped with five-yellow cards (cautions).
"We have been successfully wearing down our opponents in the second half and we concentrated on conditioning even more this week in practice," said Washington Coach Gordon Bradley. "Our midfield play has improved a lot and right now is no longer one of our concerns."
Several of the Dips are saddled with nagging leg injuries, but only forward Ray Graydon (contusion) is listed as doubtful. If the English winger doesn't play, either Andries (Six Lights) Maseko or Ken Mokgojoa will start.
The other front-line starters are Paul Cannell (three goals, one assist), Bobby Stokes (two goals, two assists) and Ken Bakic (one goal, two assists).
Washington has taken a total of 53 shots on goal and connected on eight. Minnesota has taken 28 shots in its two games. While Willey will be Washington's chief concern, wingers Chico Hamilton, Greg Villa and Ace Ntsoe.
"We have to be alert for Willey. We lengoe can break loose at any time.
don't want him scoring another hat trick against us," said Bradley.
"We're playing very well as a unit now. I think the only reason we allowed the one goal was that we were playing so well, we let up for one instant," said Willner, who will probably draw the assignment of containing Willey. "I don't know much about Minnesota this year but I'm very surprised they're winless. They always have a good team. But we play every team as if they're the best team in the world. That's the only way."
A Dip victory would equal the best start in the club's history. The '75 team won its first four games before finishing 12-10. The club record for consecutive wins is six ('76).
Today's game will be "Dips Bag Day." Gym bags will be presented to the first 5,000 youngsters 18 and under.