"I can't guarantee victories," said Coach Gordon Bradley before the soccer season, "but I can promise the Washington Diplomats will hustle and play entertaining soccer. If we entertain the fans, they'll want to come out and see us."
Well, some will and some won't, The Dips beat the Minnesota Kicks, 1-0, in a shootout Sunday to remain undefeated after four games. But only 13,226 fans came to 55,000-seat RFK Stadium.
"We've seen improvements (in attendance week by week," said Steve Danzansky, club president. "By moving to Saturday nights we won't be competing with the other pro teams in town or all the youth and adult leagues that play on Sunday.
"It's important to note that this year's fans are paying customers. Last year, we had a lot of giveaways to introduce the sport to the people. Now, they know who we are and we decided to let our product fly. We're patient. We have a fine team and the people will come."
In their three home games, the Dips have drawn 32,464 for an average of 10,821. Last year, Washington, with its giveaways, averaged 13,058 for 13 home dates.
According to NASL figures, Washington now ranks 11th in attendance But the Dips' figures have improved each week while six of the 11 teams ranked ahead of Washington have tailed off after whopping opening game figures.
Danzansky said he hoped the club would average 18-20,000 this year
Sunday's tie-breaker win over the Kicks was one of the most exciting games ever played here, although it was tainted with a protest filed by Minnesota.
Kicks' coach Freddie Goodwin objected to the procedure of the shootout conducted by referee Jim Highet. Forward Chico Hamilton apparently didn't hear the horn to start play in the shootout and stood still while the five-second clock ran out.
In the shootout, players have five seconds to advance the ball from the 35-yard line and shoot. An airhorn usually signals play to begin.
"What does he (Hamilton) think the horn is for, ships?" said Washington's paul Cannell, sarcastically. "We heard it. Their other players heard it. They're lucky we didn't beat them 5-0. The game was very one-sided."
League officials confirmed that Minnesota had filed a protest and said yesterday. A ruling is expected within 10 days.
The Dips' victories have been over clubs with a combined 3-12 record and a total of 14 goals. The Dips visit Tulso (2-2) Thursday and Dallas (3-1) Saturday.
Minnesota, a notoriously slow starter and always-tough Chicago are winless while Fort Lauderdale, which recorded the best won-lost mark last year, won its first game Saturday. The expansion Philadelphia Fury has the best record (2-2) of the teams Washington has beaten.
"We're beating good teams," Bradley said." Just look at who they lost to. We're playing great now. We're not playing any weak teams."
The kicks lost to Colorado and to Dallas. Chicago has also lost to Dallas and to Oakland twice.
Fort Lauderdale dropped games to the COsmos and Detroit, but beat Los Angeles, one of the stronger teams in the National Conference. Philadelphia lost to New England but beat Memphis twice.
The Dips played the Kicks with three starters on the bench with injuries. Jim Steele, Ray Graydon and Mike Bakic were replaced by Alex Pringle, Andries Masseko and Ken Mokgojoa.
"Alex came in and did a great job at the sweeper," said defender Mike Dillon, who along with Steele, Roy Willner and Tom O'Hara and goalie Bill Irwin (16 saves) have held opponents to one goal. "It was his first game but Minnesota couldn't do a thing with us. After a while, they got completely frustrated."
Washington also jumped to a 4-0 start in the '75 season, but injuries crippled the club's chances for the playoffs and the team finished 12-10.
The bumps and bruises are mounting his season, too. Cannell suffered a hip pointer against the Kicks and is doubtful for Thursday's game against Tulsa.
At least six other players have an assortment of injuries and Bradley is at a wait-and-see stage before announcing the lineup for the weekend.