If the title-starved fans of the Atlanta Falcons, Flames, Hawks and Braves are looking for a championship season from the newest team in town, the Chiefs, they are due to be disappointed.
The Chiefs, formerly the Colorado Caribous, were tied with San Jose for the worst record (8-22) in the North American Soccer League last year and finished with the lowest point total (81) in the league.
Club officials have promised the Atlanta fans nothing but entertainment. There's no talk of a championship, only survival, as the Chiefs come to Washington Sunday to play the Diplomats at 2:30 p.m. at RFK Stadium.
"the owners (Dick Cecil and Al Thornwell) have given us a lot of room to operate," said Director of Operations Terry Hanson, former public relations director and assistant general manager of the Dips.
"The club officials would hope t finish .500 and maybe draw 5,000 people a game. That would be a good start for us. We are going to try to exceed both of those expectations.
"but there's no pressure to do either. The pressure in self-imposedWe feel we can represent ourselves well.".tThe Chiefs, with very little talent last year, made several off-season acquisitions but failed, in the preseason, to impress the experts who have picked Atlanta to finish no higher than last in the National Conference's Central Division.
Hanson, who knows the Dips as well as anyone, said he didn't have to give first-year coach Dan Wood any trade secrets. The Chiefs defeated the Dips twice during the preseason, 3-1 and 4-2, but Hanson agreed the wins won't have any bearing on Sunday's game.
"I didn't have to tell them a thing." said Hanson. "Preseason is one thing, the regular season is something else. Some of the Washington players didn't even play against us.
"This is our first game and we have no illusions of grandeur. Washington is very tough at home and (Washington Coac Gordon) Bradley does a good job. I think people expected the Dips to go out and get a true superstar and, when they didn't, people got down on them. Gordon quietly went about getting some excellent players and they'll make the playoffs."
The Chiefs' chances of bettering .500 in their first year in Atlanta depend on how well striker Jeff Bourne, acquired from Dallas, midfielder Nino Zec, formerly of Tulsa, and defender Colin Waldron, picked up from Philadelphia, work with holdover forward Jomo Sono and midfielder Branko Radouic, the club's MVP last year.
"We made four or five good acquisitions and Wood believes in using the American players," said Hanson.
Atlanta caused a few murmurs with five preseason victories, including triumphs over 1978 playoff teams Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Washington. But it will take a lot more than a handful of exhibition wins to fill half of Atlanta-Fulton County's 55,000-plus-seat stadium.
Washington played well in its 2-1, opening-game win over Fort Lauderdale last Sunday, Bradley would like nothing better than to notch Victory No. 2 before hosting the defending NASL champion Cosmos April 8 at RFK.
"You have to win your home games in this league," said Bradley. "Atlanta will be a lot different team than the one we faced in the preseason."
While Hanson does not expect miracles, he does hope Atlanta accepts the team and supports it. He worked with the Dips two years and took the job in Atlanta because he was looking for a situation in which he could "get a lot more freedom to expand on my ideas."