The Washington Diplomat's four-game winning streak came to a screeching halt tonight as the Minnesota Kicks put on a masterful performance almost from start to finish and beat the Dips, 3-1.
"We gave them two goals in the first half," said Washington Coach Gordon Bardley. "that really punished us. The first goal especially was catastropic."
The Dips, now 14-7 with 124 points, surged briefly in the second half, cutting Minnesota'a lead to 2-1 on a goal by Ken Mokgojoa.But they never got closer as the Kicks won their fifthe straight.
The kicks, 16-5 with 140 points and the North American Soccer League's second-best record, got goals from Alan West. It was Willey's goal, 15:27 into the contest, that most distressed Bradley.
The play started with Goalkeeper Tino Lettieri hitting West with a quick pass near midfield. The English midfielder swept past three Dips and passed to Willey 20 yards from the net. When Rene Brevoort dove for the ball missed, Willey was alone with Washihgton goalie Bill Irwin. He easily decked Irwin and chipped the ball into the empty net for his 17th goal, fifth in five games.
"It was just a good pass is all," Willey said. "They weren't marking us that tightly in the first half and we had some room to run. Thathelped out some."
That room, especially at Midfield,
particulary upset Bradley, who had been pleased with his team's defense the first two games of this three-game trip, wins in Los Angeles and Portland.
"We were very loose defensively the first half," Bradley said. "We weren't playing tighty enough. The first goal was just an individual mistake by Breevoort. The second one (by Alonso at 4:51) was sloppiness."
One major problem for Washington was the play of captain Jim Steele, who was clearly hobbled by a sore knee and virtually immobile before Bradley took him out at halftime.
"They're a good team," Steele said, shrugging. "But a lot of our problem was me. I couldn't move, kept falling down. I probably shouldn't have played. Usually I do a lot of talking, try to encourage the lads. Tonight I didn't set any kind of an example at all."
With Steele out it was left to Mokgojoa to provide a spark in the second half. And, as he has done so often the past two seasons, the fleet South African came through. His fourth goal of the season at 50:20, was a brilliant effort. Taking passes from Bobby Stokes and Ane Mihalovich, he cut through three defenders and rifled a 10-yard bullet past Lettieri.
"I was just trying in instigate something,"Mokgojoa said. "We looked tired the first half. I was trying to perk things up a little."
"Mokgojoa definitely perked up his team, but his goal seemed to get the Kicks going. They again began attacking relentlessly, finally scoring a picture goal for the clincher.
Midfielder Ace Ntsoelengoe, superb all night, set it up with a long run down the right side. He slid a pass to willey in the slot who, instead of turning and shooting as he usually does, tapped a soft pass back to West. With Irwin diving in anticipation of Willey's shot, West easily chipped the ball over his head for a 3-1 Minnesota lead at 60:24.
"That was fatal," Bradley said. "We had our chances to score right after Kenneth's goal but didn't. If we had scored the equalizer we would have won the game, on question about it. But we couldn't get even."
The Dips applied enough pressure during the last 25 minutes that their 21 second half shots set a Metropolitan Stadium record for by an opponent. But the few shots that came close were stopped by Lettieri
"I didn't think we let doen the last 30 minutes; I think Washington played well," said Kicks Coach Roy McRohan. Mokgojoa was especially good.But Tino played extremely well."
For the Dips it was a disappointing end to an otherwise satisfying road trip.
"We'll be back," said striker Paul Cannell. "We were a little off tonight, we beat ourselves. If someone had said at the start of this trip that we would score 17 points we'd have jumped at it.
"When we're ourselves we can beat anyone in this league. Tonight, we just weren't ourselves."
In other games, Trevor Francis scored in the fourth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Express a 6-5 home victory over the Chicago Sting; defender Peter Wall's two goals in four minutes sparked the California Surf's 3-2 comeback win over the bosting Memphis Rougues the Houston Hurricane downed the visiting Philiadelphia Fury, 4-2, as goalkeeper Paul Hammond recorded a team-record 18 saves and visiting Toronto to Tulsa, 4-0 as David Nish assisted on three goals.