The Washington Diplomats blew a golden opportunity to take a big lead in their division of the North American Soccer League when they were defeated, 2-1, in a shootout with the Portland Timbers Wednesday night.
This was the first of a tough three games on the road for the Dips and came the same night lowly Memphis upset the mighty Cosmos, 1-0.
Had Washington won, it would have earned eight points and moved seven ahead of the Cosmos. The defeat, however, gave them only one point and the Dips now are tied with the Cosmos with 68 points. Washington has played one more game.
In addition, leading scorer Paul Cannell aggravated a shin injury and by game's end was limping badly.
Coach Gordon Bradley said Cannell "is almost definitely out of Saturday's game in Vancouver. The only way he is going to get better is if he stays off the leg.
Cannell, who has eight goals and 48 points, rarely touched the ball Wednesday night. When he did, he couldn't do much with it. Normally, with Cannell out of the lineup, winger Ken Mokgojoa would move to center-forward, but Makgojoa sprained his ankle during the second overtime and his status for the remainder of the road trip is uncertain.
"We are really hurting now," Bradley said. "I don't know what we're going to do, but we will come up with something."
Winger Mike Bakic has a thigh sprain, didn't play here and remains questionable for Saturday. Defender Roy Willner, whose ankle is injured, didn't play here but Bradley is hoping to have him back in Vancouver.
Another defender, Mike Dillon, has to sit out one more game on suspension and Alex Pringle, Jim Steele and Tom O'Hara are all playing with injuries. Pringle has a bad ankle, Steele a groin pull and O'Hara a bruised back.
Bradley welcomed two days of practice in Vancouver, hopefully with a more healthy and productive unit.
"We really had to put our thinking caps on," he said. "We really thought we had a chance to win one of the three games on this trip, but all these injuries will really make it tough now."
Bradley does have two new players he can call on and the injuries may force him to do that sooner than he wanted.
"They will have to come into consideration for Saturday," Bradley said of Ane Mihailovich and Heine van der Ven. Mihailovich, a midfielder, was acquired from Los Angeles a few days ago. He suited up here but did not play.
Van der Ven, a midfielder, arrived Wednesday afternoon from the Helmond Sport Club in Holland and did not dress for the Portland game.
The Dips were to have gotten midfielder-defender Mathis van Toorn, who was playing in the Belgian League. But two days ago van Toorn signed a three-year contract with a team in Holland.
Washington played poorly in the first half against Portland. "We couldn't even put two passes together," Bradley said. But the Dips were behind only a goal and that was because of John Bain's penalty kick.
Washington tied late in the second half on Bobby Stoke's goal.
After 15 minutes of scoreless overtime the teams went into the shootout. Only pringle scored in five attempts for the Dips while Mike Flater and Jimmy Conway scored for the Timbers.
"That was a tough one to lose because we came so far after playing so badly the first half," Bradley said. "But when it comes to a shootout it's like flipping a coin."