The Washington Diplomats squandered a 3-1 lead in the second half but knocked home four of five shots in the tie-breaking shootout to squeeze past the relentless Philadelphia Fury, 4-3, in North American Soccer League action tonight at Veterans Stadium."
Bobby Stokes, Washington's final kicker of the five in the one-on-one shootout, hit a soft roller under Fury goalkeeper jim Miller's frantic dive on the artificial turf to give Washington an insurmountable 4-2 lead for the shootout point.
"It should never have come to that." said Washington defender Mike Dillion. "We should have won, 3-1. They got two good goals but I don't think that third one was a penalty (David Robb made a penalty kick to tie the game at 3-3). He (Robb) was playing for that and got it.
"It was by far our worst defensive game of the year. That goal they got at the end of the final half took something out of us."
Washington led by 2-0 and 3-1 before a crowd of 4,068 but both times allowed the Furty to bounce back. Alan Green scored two goals in the first half before leaving with a bruised jawer after being decked by a Fury player.
Robb, who came into the game with 14 points (five goals, four assists), got free behind the Dip defense and headed in a short goal to cut the gap to 2-1 with 1:14 left before intermission.
Paul Cannell's goal following a corner kick by Joe Horvath lifted Washington into a seemingly safe 3-1 advantage with 43 minutes to play.
[WORDS ILLEGIBLE] Fury, who had started to play better in the final few minutes of the first half, began to press the Diplomat defense and goalie Bobby Stetler, who was replacing the injured Bill Irwin.
Frank Worthington, the elading goal scorer in the English First Division this season, arrived only Thursday but played as if one had been here all year. The quick left footed one-on-one master, despite good defense by both Mike Dillon and Don Droege, got free a number of times to get off shots. His short header following assist from Fran O'Brien, made the score 3-2 at the 53:27 mark.
That was a good goal," said Dillon. "Nice pass, nice goal."
The last Philadelphia goal did not sit too well with Dillon, his teammates or Coach Gordon Bradley back with the team after a one-game absence because of a hand injury.
"Don maybe got caught pushing him, but Robb is a smart player and played it that way," said Dillon, the sweeper back.
Robb, awarded a penalty kick, had no trouble kicking the ball over a leaping Stetler and into the net to tie the game at 3 with 16:33 to play in regulation.
The Fury, sensing a Diplomat let down, kept the pressure on. But Washington held and the game went into overtime.
"It's difficult to come back from a 3-1 deficit," Bradley said. "It was not a good soccor game. We fell flat but showed a lot of character in the shootout.
Washington did little in the two 7 1/2-minute overtimes. The Dips, outshot for the first time this year at 21-15, managed only two shots, both by Ken Mokgojoa, in the overtimes. Neither shot came close.
The Fury, on the other hand, took five and almost made two. The closest was a Worthington low liner that just missed. Stetler, who made eight saves, had no chance on the shot.
Stetler played well in the shootout. After allowing Tony Glarin's shot to skip under his dive, he blocked Fran O'Brien and intimidated Worthington enough to cause the striker's shot to sail just wide left.
"I hated to make our team score three times and have to force a shootout to win," Stetler said. "I don't think I proved anything."
The wet ball and the accuracy of the Dip kickers gave Miller the blues. The reserve goalie had replaced regular Keith Van Eron, who suffered a minor shoulder separation in the first half trying to stop Green's second goal (which gave him his third two-goal game this year).
Miller gave a victory sign after he blocked Tommy O'Hara's first shot of the shootout. He couldn't lift his head following his next four turns in the goal.
Sonny Askew, Robert [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Droege and Stokes all left Miller sprawled on the AstroTurf, grasping at the air, as they whisked balls past him into the net.