If the Washington Diplomat's coach, Gordon Bradley, has his way, the Dips will not take many shots during the first half of their game tonight in Bloomington with the Minnesota Kicks
"If we can keep them down for the first 20 or 25 minutes, hold them to a scoreless tie, then the pressure on them will build," Bradley said yesterday. "We expect them to throw a lot at us early. The first 20 minutes will be crucial for both clubs."
Wednesday night in Portland the Dips withstood a first-half barrage by the Timbers, then got a quick second half goal from Carmine Marcantonio and held on for their fourth straight win, 1-0. The Dips are 14-6 on the season, good for 123 points, 12 points behind the Cosmos in the National Conference East.
"[Saturday night] will be a true test, though," Bradlkey said. "We've played extremely well, especially on this road trip [winss in Portland and Los Angeles]. If we can win in Minnesota, anything can happen for this club. We've got a lot of confidence."
So do the Kicks, perennially one of the North American Soccer Leaque's best teams. Their 15-5 record and 131 points rank behind only the Cosmos. The Kicks also have won four straight.
The big man for the Kicks during that streak, and during the last three seasons, has been striker Alan Willey. The 22-year-old Englishman had a goal in each of those games for a total of 16 on the season and is tied with Philadelphia's David Robb for second in the league in scoring.
That will make it much more important that the Dips' defense, superb during the current streak, and goal-keeper Bill Irwin, who recorded his fourth shutout of the year Wednesday continue their excellent play.
Bradley will start the same 11 who played against Portland, with Marcantonio, who scored his first goal in 41 NASL games, agan subbing for Sakib Viteskic at midefield and Rene Breevoort playing in place of Don Droege on defense. Jim Steele, normally a midfield starter, will substitute for Mike Dillon on defense.
Irwin is second in the leaque in goalkeeping with a 1.06 goals-against average. . . .Alan Green is sixth in the National Conference in scoring with eleven goals and three assists for 25 points. Joe Horvath [23 points] and Paul Cannell [21 points] are next in scoring for the Dips . . . Bradley said he talked to the Cosmos this week about purchasing Annandale native Gary Etherington, but called the asking price "astronomical."