With the owner watching from the top row of the stadium and the coach also in the stands, the Washington Diplomats earned a 1-0 victory over the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers today in a North American Soccer League exhibition game.
Diplomat striker Bobby Stokes, with assists from Abdries Masko and former Fort Lauderdale player David Proctor, scored the game's only goal on a 15-yard shot early in the second half.
David (Sonny) Werblin, president of Madison Square Garden and the man charged with ushering in the Dips' "new era," spent three-quarters of the contest inspecting his new employes.Washington Coach Gordon Bradley hung around for the whole game and liked most, but not all, of what he saw.
"There were good points and bad points," said Bradley, who spent the game in the stands, "because I wanted to see if the players could pick things up themselves. They did, at least in the second half, but there's a lot of work to be done. Some of the things we practiced this week I could see coming in spasms, but we're not yet into our patterns."
One of the things Bradley likes about the club is its depth.
"Even at this early point I can tell we're going to be much deeper than last year," he said. "We've got eight new players either on trial or through the draft, and our bench is going to be much stronger. But between the condition of the field (which had numerous holes) today and a number of players missing, you can't really tell what the strength of each side is."
Washington played without forward Paul Cannell, scheduled for surgery today at George Washington University Hospital to remove a calcium deposit from his shin; midfielder Sakib Viteskic, expected to join the club in Santo Domingo later this week, and forward Ken Mokgojoa, who will join the club March 15.
Cannell, the Dips' all-time leading scorer, is expected to be out of action for six weeks, which would cause him to miss the first wek of the NASL's regular season.
The newest Dip, forward Renee Breevoort, whose contract the club bought from the Club Ghent team in Belgium, arrived at 2 a.m. yesterday.
The Strikers were missing forward David Irving, their leading scorer last season and top defender Maurice Whittle. Both are still in England. Midfielder George Best has been working out with the club, but cannot play until a legal dispute between his former English club and the Strikers is settled.
Even without those three, the Strikers ran the Dips ragged in the first half, taking 12 shots to Washington's two. Striker forward Mico Bodonzzy barely missed scoring twice, curving one shot high and wide over a corner and sailing a 30-yarder just over the crossbar. Dip goalie Bill Irwin made four saves.
The second half wasn't much different. The Strikers again had the better of play, outshooting Washington, 6-3. But Stokes made the only shot that counted.
When the Strikers counterattacked, backup goalie Bob Stetler was impenetrable, although he escaped what seemed a certain score when Striker forward Denny Vaninger, facing nothing but net, lost control of the ball.
"I don't get that open very often," said Stokes, who took Maseko's pass alone and blasted his 15-yarder past goalie Arnie Mausser. "It's just reaction. I knew where I was going as soon as I got it."
The Dips knew where they were going as soon as the game ended -- to Santo Domingo, where they will spend the next 2 1/2 weeks practicing at a facility owned by Gulf & Western, which owns Madison Square Garden which owns Madison Square Garden Soccer, which owns the Dips.
"I'm not sure how good the competition will be, Bradley said. "We play a local team Wednesday, and I don't think we should have much trouble. But G&W owns the place, so what can we do?"
Nothing but get on the plane.