Alan Green, who missed the last six games because of a pulled groin muscle, rammed home two goals in a five minute span to bring the Washington Diplomats a 2-0 triumph over the lack-luster Edmonton Drillers before 10,025 last night in RFK Stadium.
The Dips, who will play their next three games on the road against Los Angeles, Portland and Minnesota, improved their record to 12-6 and point total to 107. The Eastern Division leading Cosmos also won last night, 3-1, over Portland, to raise their mark to 14-4 and point total to 126.
For the first 66 minutes, the Dips looked perplexed and frustrated as the Drillers played keep-away and rarely tried to score.
"It was one-two-three passes and (rest)," said Dip sweeper Jim Steele. "I told the lads to go out three and just kick the ball. They (Drillers) weren't trying to score.They were going for the shootout. They should have been charged with that, what's that rule in basketball, the five-second violation."
For the Drillers (5-14), now losers of nine straight games, the strategy was sound, Center-forward Lorenz Hilkes was playing with two broken toes and was no threat at all. Wingers Alex Schoenmaker and John Anton never got free long enough even to think about scoring.
Washington was outshot the first half, 7-5, only because the front line never got the ball. In the second half, it was a different story.
The dazzling halftime fireworks display - players of both teams chose to stand around and watch them rather than warmup for the second half - seemed to fire up the Dips. At least it put some life in their dormant offense.
"We were a little conservative before the fireworks," Steele said. "But we came out a little more offensive-minded the second half. I'm hoarse now from yelling. I have to swear at the lads. On this team, you have to swear in a lot of different languages. But everyone understands."
Green, who now has 11 goals and three assists for a team-high 25 points, understood one goal might win the game and began looking for open spaces to which to run.
Following a foul, the Dips were awarded an indirect free kick just outside and to the right of the Driller penalty box. Joe Horvath pushed his pass around a two-man Edmonton wall and Green skipped inside defender Henning Jensen and punched the ball into the net. Goalie Jan Endeman had no chance on the shot, which sent Washington ahead at the 67:00 mark.
"Joe looked at me and I looked at Joe. Then he played the ball to the near post and I made the run to the ball," said Green. "I caught the ball well. The ball is so close, the only way the goalie is going to stop that is to anticipate well and throw his body in the way. Otherwise he had no chance."
Edmonton never changed its strategy; or if it did, no one was aware of it. The Drillers managed but six shots the second half, only two in the final 17 minutes.
Green added an insurance goal exactly 4 1/2 minutes after the first. Dip goalie Bill Irwin (who felt he should have been credited with an assist) boomed a long ball downfield to Paul Cannell. The striker controlled the ball and sent it to Green in the middle of the field 22 yards from the net. Driller defender Jensen seemed to get caught ball-watching as Green first bounced the ball off his foot and chest before pivoting and rifling a perfect shot that caught the back of the net to put ips up 2-0.
"He really marked me tight all night," said Green, referring to the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Jensen. "I had a time getting away from him."
Green, only 5-7, 145, left the game to a big ovation three minutes later because of a slight twinge in his groin.
Joe Petrone, Driller assistant coach handling the team in the absence of ill Hans Kraay, said the team did fine "until everything broke down at once."
"That first goal tore us apart," Petrone said. "We worked hard but we had to be conservative because we haven't been consistent and our center forward had two broken toes. They are experienced and we aren't. Experience beat us."
Washington, posting its first shutout since April 29, was not flawless but put together enough offense to avert disaster. Several of the Dip players and Coach Gordon Bradley were a little worried the Drillers' slowdown plan might lull them to sleep long enough to slip in a goal.
"I know they were playing for a tie and shootout," Bradley said.
"In the first half I didn't think they would score but the way they were playing us, I questioned whether we would either. Even though they were passing the ball three times before kicking it back to the goalkeeper, we have strategy to combat that. We didn't do it until after intermission."