Unlike most of his teammates, Washington Diplomat defender Robert Iarusci returned home from the club's three-game road trip disappointed.
"We won two and that's good," he said, "but when we went out to play the third one in Minnesota it was almost like we were already satisfied with the trip because we had two wins. We weren't intense, we were relaxed. That's our problem here: we lack that extra grain of intensity.
"To really be a winner, you have to always be intense."
More than most players in the North American Soccer League, the 24-year-old Canadian defender is entitled to talk about what it takes to be a winner. He has been in the league three years and has played on three Soccer Bowl champions, the only player in the league to do so.
"I'm honored but I know I've been lucky to play on excellent teams," said Iarusci, who played for championship teams in Toronto in 1976 and New York in 1977 and 1978. "Those teams knew what it took to be winners everday. With the Cosmos it didn't matter, home or away you were supposed to win every game. We expected to."
When Iarusci talks about soccer, his intensity is obvious. He rocks back and forth in his chair, talking with his hands leaning forward to make a point.
"I loved playing with the Cosmos because the pressure there was constant, every day, every minute. When you went out to play you knew you had to do the job or you would probably end up booed off the field, rapped in the press and out of the lineup.
"I think we need that kind of pressure down here. We don't have it yet either from the press, the fans or from ourselves. Another thing we had going for us with the Cosmos was Giorgio (Chinaglia). If the press wasn't on us to play better, he was."
Chinaglia, the flamboyant Italian striker, has been a frequent target of criticism throughout the league. Iarusci, a close friend, thinks he understands why.
"You have to know Giorgio to understand him," he said. "When people just see him on the field they sometimes get upset because he's arrogant and he's so proud and competitive
"But with his teammates he's magic. He encourages people, drives them, helps them play their best. He's special."
Bradley thinks Iarusci is somewhat special himself. "I wanted Robert (purchased from the Cosmos during the offseason) because he's a winner," Bradley said. "Not so much because he's played on three championship teams but because he's so competitive.
"Robert hates to lose games, he hates to lose in scrimmages, he hates to lose one on one. He hates to lose a coin flip. He always gives 150 percent on the field. We need more players with his kind of intensity.
"Robert is very good at putting pressure on himself. You can't always have extenal forces exerting pressure as the Cosmos do. But players like Robert and Jimmy Steele put pressure on themselves and on their teammates to produce."
Iarusci's statistics offensively -- no goals, three assets -- are hardly earth-shattering. At the right back position, he has given stability to the Dip defense and has done a good job moving the ball from the defensive end to the offensive end of the field.
"I've been fairly pleased with my play or far although sometimes I've let myself let down and not played as well as I can," Iarusci said. "The team is making progress."
On the field, the team is making progress but, off the field, the club's new owner, Madison Square Garden, has not been satisfied with fan support in Washington. Iarusci agrees with their position.
"I don't know what it is," he said, "but Washington doesn't seem to have an identity. It's a commuter city. People drive in, then they drive out.
"Look what it took for the Bullets to make it in this town. The Redskins are a religion, but beyond that people don't really identify with Washington as their home town team that often.
"I understand (Garden President Sonny Werblin saying that if the team isn't showing progress in two years they'll move it. He didn't say it until after 10 home games and a great Cosmos match so you can't say he jumped to a conclusion.
"But I think if we can win consistently the sport can still make it here. I've never seen a team get more publicity. The press has generally been good, although I think there's a tendency to accentuate the negative.
'We have to win, through, no question about it. Bullet Fever didn't just happen. If the Bullets died so would Bullet Fever. We have to do what they did -- win big."
The Dips will play the Senate Sounders at RFK Sunday at 2:30 p.m. will be Special Olympics Day high-lighted by a ceremony involving the 60 local athletes going next month to the International Special Olympics in Brockport, N.Y., and a soccer demonstration at halftime. CAPTION: Picture, Bob Iarusci, right, scrimmaging with Dip teammate Don Droege, says his team must "win big" to gain fan support. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post