The Washington Diplomats, a team that seems to save its fireworks until after halftime, put on a second-half display and beat the Portland Timbers, 1-0, tonight in a North American Soccer League game.
After settling for a scoreless stalemate for 45 minutes, the Diplomats went from passive to passionate on offense.
Unsuspecting Carmine Marcantonic loved the change.
In 19 previous games, the Dips had scored 13 times in first halves and 25 times after intermissions.
Giorgio Chinaglia he is not, but tonight he was all the offense the Diplomats needed.
Marcantonio, a 5-foot-9 center midfielder from Castel di Sangro, Italy, weaved a low, left-footed kick through a crowd of players and past Portland goalkeeper Mick Poole one minute into the second half.
It was his first goal in 51 NASL games.
Ironically, Marcantonia was pressed into the starting lineup primarily because of injuries to Viteskic [pulled thigh], Don Droege [knee] and Mike Dillon [knee].
The win pulled Washington [14-6, 123 points] within 12 points of idle National Conference Eastern Division leader New York [15-4].
It was the Diplomats' fourth straight victory and their fifth triump in six outings. Conversely it was the fifth straight dud for Portland, which has slipped into the Western Division cellar.
The Timbers had hoped to win back some disheartened fans, particularly those who turned out to see the those who had watched an embarrasing 5-1 Timbers loss to rival Seattle only four days earlier.
However, the only cheering in the crowd of 17,613 [second only to the 18,254 who turned out to see the Cosmos in May] came during a postgame fireworks show at Civic Stadium.
Portland's Stewart Scullion burst through the defense and fired over the head of Washington goalkeeper Bill Irwin at 87:52.
But the goal was disallowed because of offsides. Irwin himself made sure of the infraction, rushing immediately to the sidelines to confirm the call with the lineman.
After Marcontonio's quick second-half score, the Dips kept 10 men on defense except for a few charges on breakways.
Irwin's defense, as well as Portland's timidity, helped the Dip keeper record his fourth shutout. Irwin made four saves.
Portland inserted Davey Butler and Elson Seale, players known for their ability to ignite an offense, in the second half, but the Dips kept them out of range.