Sakib Viteskic's soft shot over Detroit Express goalkeeper Jim Brown's head gave Washington an insurmountable 3-1 lead in the tie-breaker shootout and the Diplomats escaped with a 2-1 decision tonight at the Silverdome.
Washington, although winning its 10th of 15, was completely outhustled by the Express all game and long in danger of being shut out for the third straight time. Winger Ken Mokgojoa's goal gained a tie for the Dips at the 77:59 mark.
Neither team did anything in the two 7 1/2-minute overtime sessions and the North American Soccer League contest went into the shootout. Each team singles out five players who attempt to score against the goalie, one on one, within five seconds.
Washington's Tommy O'Hara immediately put his team ahead as he snaked a shot past the sliding Brown. Express midfielder David Bradford appeared to knot the shootout at 1-1 when he juked fallen Diplomat goalie Bill Irwin and pushed his shot into the left side of the net - but no go.
Bradford used the maximum five seconds and a few more. When his shot crossed the goal line and referee Paul Avis signaled good a la a touchdown, Washington Coach Gordon Bradley led a procession of irate Dips onto the artificial turf.
After a brief consultation with linesman and time-keeper Derek Smith, Avis reversed his decision and nullified Bradford's goal.
That started another brouhaha, this time from the Detroit bench, but Avis waved the home club to retreat and signaled play to resume.
"We got ripped out of a goal," complained Brown, who anchored a brilliant Express defense. "The referee gave/the signal good then let him (Bradley) change his mind."
Express Coach Ken Furphy said he wasn't angry because Avis changed his decision. What upset him was Avis not giving Bradley a yellow card for charging onto the field.
"He should've gotten a card for that," Furphy said. "I got two steps on the field and he told me to got back. The referee claimed he never heard the whistle (signaling Bradford's time was up). All I saw was his hands up in the air. We won't protest. What good would it do?"
Avis said he and Smith got their signals crossed.
"I misunderstood him. We had cleared it up before the Washington team came on the field," Avis said in a brief statement prepared after the game. "Them coming out there had nothing to do with it."
The boot turned out to be nothing but conversation for the 7,139 boisterous fans to chew on after the game. After misses by Washington's Bobby Stokes and Detroit's Johann Scharmann, Robert Iarusci slipped one past Brown to give the Dips a 2-0 advantage.
Keith Furphy, the coach's son who scored his team's goal in regulation, saw his rifle attempt blocked by Irwin. Dip shooter Don Droege missed and Paul Hunter knocked one home to cut the Washington advantage to 2-1 going into the final round.
Viteskic then lofted his attempt into the goal over the out-of-position Brown. The midfielder, so elated over his game-winner, lifted one of the Express cheerleaders onto his shoulders and carted her off the field.
Bradley will be the first to admit the Dips were lucky indeed to get an opportunity at overtime. The Express made the visitors look like a band of outclassed schoolboys the first 60 minutes of play.
Young, Furphy and fellow winger Ted MacDonald made the Dip defense work like soldiers as they repeatedly got inside for easy shots and crossing passes. With breaks, Furphy could have had a huge scoring night. He caromed two shots off the goal post. He had two other "sure" chances, one missing wide left, the other bouncing off Dip defender Droege and hitting the post.
The Express players took advantage of Washington's reluctance to press on the slick surface and pilfered one pass after another. Usually a stolen pass led to a MacDonald or Furphy shot. The two players accounted for 13 of Detroit's 19 attempts on goal.
Furphy, with assists from Bradford and Sam Oates, put Detroit ahead, 1-0, at 36:56.
Theone goal looked like more than enough as the Dips offense, which has not functioned well the last four games, again had problems.
But Washington played a bit more aggressively in the second half and began attacking more.
The one break it was looking for came following a Viteskic across into the Detroit goal area. Tony Crescitelli, a late replacement for Sonny Askew, charged after the ball and headed it toward the net. A defender stopped the shot but Dip striker Paul Cannell controlled it and knocked it toward the goal. Brown punched the ball out and Mokjogoa, standing around watching the fun, had the ball land right at his feet.
The South African had nothing to do but kick the ball and the Dips had tied the game at 1-1.