The team leadership and aggressiveness that have been missing in the Washington Diplomats' attack the last six weeks should be back today at RFK Stadium.
Captain Jimmy Steele, out with a broken jaw, will start at his familiar sweeperback position against the struggling Philadelphia Fury at 2:30 p.m.
Announcement of Steele's return brought smiles to the faces of many Diplomat players, especailly to his physical partner, Paul Cannell.
"We need him in there to shake things up," Cannell said. "I'll take care of the stuff up front and Jim will take care of the back. We've been intimidated a few games. We've missed Jimmy's aggressiveness."
Without the fiery, curly-haired Steele in the lineup, Washington (10-6) has lost four of its last nine games.
"I might not be quite match-fit yet, but I'm ready to play," Steele said. "I hate to watch. I'd much rather play golf than sit in the stands. I think the lads have lost a bit of confidence and have not been too agressive on the field.
"A lot of our regulars have been missing and you have to adjust to new people every game. We need this game, not as much for the win but just to get the lads going again and geeling confident. We lost to Rochester, the second time this year, and they're the worst team in the league. We've got to get started again."
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Steele ("I lost 20 pounds sipping soup") opened the season at center midfield, a relatively new position for the Dips' intimidator. He had just begun to settle down there when Dallas' George Ley elbowed him on the jaw in a fracas.
Being assigned to the sweeperback position he manned all last year was a surprise to Steele.
"I'll be a bit leery at first," he said.
"You don't have quite as much responsibility in the midfield. You make a mistake and someone can cover for you. You make a mistake in the back and you're in trouble, but I'll be okay. I've played there before."
Steele will replace Don Droege, limping since he hyperextended a knee in practice last week.
Coach Gordon Bradley is glad to see his team leader back on the field.
"He's the organizer out there; he tells the players where to go, keeps them moving," Bradley said.
Bradley also said Andries Maseko again will start at midfield, along with Joe Horvath, who missed three games with strained knee ligaments.
"He (Maseko) played so well last week (in a 3-2 shootout loss to Rochester), I feel he deserves to stay in there," Bradley said. "He added something to our attack."
The South African added speed to the lineup. With more of the same today, the Dips could have a field day against the visitors, who have lost their eight road games.
The Diplomats' game plan is simple enough" Attack. Since the Dips have scored only four goals in four games, Bradley wants his players to push forward "more this game than in any this season."
"We need a good win. A 1-0 scrape through will not be satisfactory to me or the players," he said. "We are definitely going to attack Philadelphia."
Disgruntled reserve goalkeeper Bobby Stetler has been given permission to try out for the Fort Lauderdale team. Should the Strikers decide to keep Stetler, Bradley said the Dips will be more than willing to make a deal.... The Dips defeated the Fury, 4-3, in a shootout in their previous game.... Washington is 6-2 this season at RFK.... Fury striker David Robb leads the American Conference in scoring with 30 points. Frank Worthington has 13 points, one more than Dusan Lukic.... The game can be heard live on WTOP-radio 1500.