Ask any Washington Diplomat player about Toronto, and he will say it is a wonderful place to visit but a bad place to play soccer.
Toronto, which has made a habit of whipping the Dips since both entered the North American Soccer League six years ago, mugged the visitors again, 2-0, before 6,853 tonight at Exhibition Stadium.
"It was a bad game," said washington goalkeeper Bill Irwin, who was kept busy blocking Blizzard shots (10 saves) and yelling at his teammates to get back. "I didn't think the first one was a goal. I thought I hit it back. The second goal, we just got caught trying to get the equalizer. We gave away two goals again."
Two first-half goals, including a demoralizing score eight seconds before halftime, put the Diplomats in a hole they could not escape - even though Toronto played the game's last 31 1/2 minutes one player short after Peter Roe was ejected.
Washington, now 9-4, picked up no ground on the Cosmos in the Eastern Division. The Dips, besides forgetting several of the basic rules of soccer, added two more players to a crowded injury list.
Midfielder Joe Horvath, kicked midway in the second half, suffered some ligament damage in his left knee and will be lost about three weeks. Defender Robert Iarusci pulled a groin muscle late in the game and was replaced. Iarusci's injury was diagnosed as not serious, but his status for Saturday's game at Tampa Bay is questionable.
"We've already lost enough people, haven't we," Iarusci said. "I hope to play Saturday. Right now, I can't rotate my legs too well."
Washington played well enough to win but committed just enough mistakes to look bad. The Dips had several good scoring chances but somehow managed to botch them all.
Washington's Rene Breevoort got free on a breakaway and sent his shot wide right after goalie Blagoje Tamindzic had committed himself. Sonny Askew also had a good shot but Tamindzic stood his ground and smothered the point-blank bullet in his chest.
"We were the better team in the first half," Washington Coach Gordon Bradley said. "We had four or five chances that should have been goals."
The Blizzard, which usually plays good defense, looked sloppy trying to mark the Washington forward but got away with it because the Dips were misfiring.
Toronto slowly began to take control as midfielders Cliff Calvert and Drew Busby, hoping for a Washington mistake, consistently sent long passes downfield to Ivan Lukacevic and Peter Lorimer. Their efforts were rewarded at 36:14 when Lukacevic, who had scored five goals in four games before tonight, headed home a rebound attempt past Irwin to put the Blizzard ahead, 1-0.
Irwin managed to tip Luckacevic's header, but the ball hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced into the goal.
The Diplomats immediately began to press on offense, but their attempt to gain a tie before the half turned into a disaster.
In the closing seconds before intermission, Dip defender Mike Dillon tried a shot that was deflected by Lukacevic. The ball bounced out to Lorimer, who began his long trek downfield as the clock ticked down. Washington, perhaps counting down the seconds, eased up slightly and Lorimer dished off a soft pass to Colin Franks, all alone on the right wing.
Irwin came to challenge Franks, but the midfielder's kick slipped past him and Iarusci, who had ducked back to help. The goal came with eight seconds on the clock.
"That was demoralizing for us," Bradley said. "You should never give up a goal like that. In 10 seconds, we go from a near goal for us to a goal and a 2-0 lead for them.After that, they came out with confidence and we just did nothing in the second half."
The Blizzard (6-8) used its muscle to stymie Washington in the second half, when it committed 18 fouls, received three cautions and watched Roe receive his red card and ejection for hitting Breevort.
Roe wasn't missed. Washington rarely got free long enough to mount any kind of threat. Striker Paul Cannell, who had all three goals in the Dips' 3-2 overtime triumph over New England on Sunday, was held down by Blizzard defender Willie McVie.
Cannell, somethat, miffed at McVie's physical play, said it bothered him when he complained to the referee (Gus Constantine), only to be told, "Willie is being a good lad compared to last week.
"What kind of stuff is that to say," said Cannell, who got only two shots on goal. "We got intimidated out there a bit. I wish (Jim) Steele was here. He likes that."
When asked if leading scorer Alan Green (pulled groin) was missed up front, Cannell laughed and said, "The way they were playing, Greenie would have been knocked up in the sky."
In a surprise move, Bradley used reserve Tony Crescitelli, who usually gets his exercise on the practice unit, in place of Horvath. The striker, originally drafted by Rochester but later signed by Washington as a free agent, moved smoothly without the ball and got off a couple of shots.
"It was a surprise to play," Crescitelli said, "but it was rough out there."
Toronto, which has defeated Washington five straight times and eight times in 10 meetings, won the shot battle, 20-15.