The Washington Diplomats barely broke sweat tonight, manhandling the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 4-0, in a North American Soccer League game before 13,790 at Lockhart Stadium.
The Strikers, who voted Friday not to support the NASL players strike called that day against the team owners, voted again this morning and only six decided to play.
"My main concern was to play the game and entertain the fans," said winded Striker Coach Fon Newman, who dressed and played 30 minutes. "Our fans didn't deserve this kind of treatment. It's over now, but the game will haunt us in the league standings. I have to wonder how much damage our striking players have done to us."
The largest crowd to watch the Strikers (2-2) this season hardly had time to read the numbers on the backs of the new players before their team was behind, 1-0.
Sakib Viteskie gave the Dips a lead they were never to lose with a 10-yard shot just under Striker goalie Al Salsamendi, making his debut in a Striker uniform.
"We had players out too," said Viteskie, who got his first goal of the year. "But then, that's their problem."
Despite the absence of three striking Dips starters, defenders Don Droege and Robert Iarusci and mid-fielder Sonny Askew, and the NASL's leading scorer, Alan Green, who stayed in Washington with the flu, the Dips had no problem winning easily.
"They all should be like that," said defender Mike Dillon.
Dillon and Co. put the squeeze on midfielder George Best and forward Teofilo Cubillas, two of the four Fort Lauderdale starters who elected to play. The two talented Strikers managed several nice passes inside the Washington defense but their new teammates had no idea where to go from there.
Newman even started his assistant coach, David Chadwick, who retired three years ago, at one midfield spot in an effort to keep a "coach on the field."
The tactic was in vain. Washington ran the Strikers ragged.
"You have to give them credit," said Washington Coach Gordon Bradley, who said he never considered playing against his 44-year-old counterpart. "They ran hard and threw everything at us. They had nothing to lose.
"Once we settled down, it was a one-way street. But if they had poked in an early goal, they would have put 11 men back on defense and kicked the ball in the stands all game. We had to get on top first."
Washington, now 3-1, gained the maximum nine points (six for a victory and one each for a goal up to three per game) for a total of 28. The Dips stayed two points ahead of the Cosmos, who won their third straight overtime game by beating the Atlanta Chiefs, in the National Conference's Eastern Division.
While the Dips found it difficult to concentrate against the game but inexperienced Strikers, they dominated throughout. Salsamendi especially was treated rudely. After allowing Viteskic's goal, he fell, badly bruised a shoulder and was replaced by his brother, Joe, midway through the first half.
Washington showed Joe Salsamendi no mercy either. Three minutes after he took his position in front of the Striker goal, Joe Horvath blasted a sizzler that caromed off the goalie's hand and into the right-hand corner of the net for a 2-0 Washington advantage.
The game went downhill from there. Neither team played with much fire, Fort Lauderdale because it had no talent and Washington because it had no reason to.
"It's harder playing against a team like that than it is to play a regular team," said Dip striker Paul Capnell, starting in place of Askew. "It was a good game for me. It helped me get some of my timing back."
Washington, which outshot its host, 18-10, took an insurmontable 3-0 lead on a Bobby Stokes goal in the first minute of the second half. Mike Bakic was credited with an assist, giving him three for the game and tying a club record.
Shortly after that, Newman decided he needed some exercise and he replaced Mike Mazee, another refugee from the amateur Gold Coast Soccer League. Newman hardly extended himself and spent his 30 minutes directing traffic.
The game became physical at times. Four yellow cards were assessed and 22 fouls were called.The Dips lost Ane Mihailovich, who severely sprained an ankle.
"That's a bad loss to us," said Bradley. "But the game helped some guys trying to prove themselves. Renee Breevoort got a chance to play. Ken Mokgojoa and Andries Maseko also got a chance to get in. I wanted to get eveyone in the game."
Mokgojoa closed out the scoring at the 80:02 mark.
The strike caused Tony Whelan to end his iron-man record. The defender had appeared in every minute of every game since the Strikers moved here from Miami two years ago.