For six games, injured Washington Diplomat striker Alan Green either sat in the RFK Stadium press box or listened to the games on radio gnashing his teeth and clenching his fists each time his teammates missed a scoring opportunity.
"It looked as if a few of the lads had lost a bit of confidence," said Green, who pulled a groin muscle chasing a ball in the opening minutes of the Washington-New England game June 3. "From upstairs, I could see we were struggling some."
There were no clenched fists, no gnashing of teeth and no struggling Wednesday night when Green returned to action. His fourth two-goal effort of the season vaulted the Diplomats over Edmonton, 2-o.
"It's good to have him back out there," said Coach Gorden Bradley. "Alan means a lot to our offense."
The return of Green to the starting lineup is now especially important, since the Dips begin a three-game road trip tonight in Los Angeles. The game will be televised live on WTTGTV-5 at 11 p.m. EDT.
Washington (12-6), winner of three of its last four games, will play in Portland and Minnesota before returning home to host Seattle July 15.
The Dips scored only eight goals in the six games Green missed and that figure was misleading because Paul Cannell scored five of them. The smooth movement and communication so evident when Cannell and Green played together up front had disappeared.
Some of the missing zip reappeared against Edmonton, but even the Washington players had trouble getting excited over the Drillers sleep-inducing stalling tactics.
"You could see they didn't come to play," said Green, who scored his 10th and 11th goals of the year within a 4 1/2-minute span of the second half. "We didn't play that well but it wasn't us so much. They wouldn't allow us to play."
Washington's leading scorer for the 1976 season left the game shortly after his second goal when he felt a "slight twinge in my groin."
"I got a bit tired," Green said. "But there's no problem with the leg. I'll be fine."
Cannell obviously was delighted to see Green back. The two players have combined to score 19 of Washington's 38 goals.
"Greenie and I will always score goals," Cannell said. "It makes no difference to either of us which one does it. I like playing with Greenie because he knows the game and is always in the right spot. I don't have to yell at him to go here or go there. It's automatic to him."
Cannell is a master at converting high balls into goals, with six of his eight goals having been headers. Green depends on his speed and quick feet to get open. He prefers his teammates to send long balls upfield so he can dash after them and take a slower defender one on one.
"That's my main asset, speed," Green said. "I don't mind which side the ball is on because I can play either one."
While Green and Cannell have been successful in finding the net, Green admits he wouldn't mind having another winger play up front.He prefers the 3-3 system rather than Bradley's alignment of two forwards and four midfielders.
"Since we're the only ones up front, Paul and I are sometimes under a lot of pressure," Green said. "At times it hurts the offense. If the midfielders come up on the wing fast enough, then it's okay."
When Washington was completely healthy, Green and Cannell got plenty of help from Joe Horvath, Sakib Viteskic, Bobby Stockes and Sonny Askew. But Horvath and Viteskic have been hampered by injuries and the Dips' passing game has been spotty.
"The midfield has to score some goals for us," Cannell said. "Joe just came back to the lineup and has been slow to get in the game. We'll just have to give him the ball a little more."
With a healthy Green back, the shot opportunities that have declined in recent games should increase. And, if you listen to Cannell, the goals that also have not come too often lately, will start coming in bunches. Alan Green, he says, will see to that.