Right midfielder Sonny Askew took a perfect pass from striker Paul Cannell, walked in uncontested and scored with 5:35 left in the game to give the Diplomats a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps, NASL's National Conference West leaders, before 12,321 fans last night at RFK Stadium.
Washington, however, dropped one point further behind the first-place Cosmos in the National East, 155 to 141, as the New Yorkers defeated Fort Lauderdale, 4-3, in Florida.
The Dips improved their season record to 16-7 and have won six of their last seven games. The 16 wins ties a season high for the Dips.
Askew was especially elated about scoring the winning goal because his grandmother, with whom he lives in Baltimore, watched him play for the first time.
"It was a good goal to teach kids," Askew said. "A steal (by Bob Iarusci) and a good pass to Cannell, who put it in front of me. I just aimed it at him almost and hoped it went in."
The game was expected to be a defensive struggle between the league's two best goalies and it was. Vancouver's Phil Parkes led the league with a 1.00 goals-against average coming into the game; Washington's Bill Irwin was next with a 1.15 average.
It took 41 minutes 37 seconds to penetrate Parkes.
Don Droege scored his first goal as a Diplomat by slamming a header past Parkes off a set pass from striker Joe Horvath.He looped the ball into Dorege, off a free kick from 30 yards out.
Droege, standing to the right of Parkes, outleaped two Whitecap defenders and headed the ball back across the goal to the left of Parkes.
Horvath collected his team-leading 12th assist on the play, only the second goal of Droege's three-year NASL career.
Droege, in his first Washington campaign after two years with Rochester, returned to action last night for the first time since suffering a hyperextended left knee seven games ago.
Although the Dips scored the only first-half goal, the Whitecaps seemed to control the tempo, slowing down the play and setting up against the home side. Vancouver got only four shots on goal the first half, three from the right foot of leading scorer Kevin Hector.
Vancouver came out and picked up the pace to begin the second half.
The change of strategy paid off immediately as the midfielders and forwards bunched inside the penalty area directly in front of Irwin. Washington left midfielder Jim Steele committed a pushing foul, giving the Whitecaps a penalty kick only 12 yards from Irwin.
Whitecap center-midfielder Alan Ball $&(WORD ILLEGIBLE took the penalty kick and blasted his fifth goal of the season past a sprawling Irwin into the far left corner of the net for a 1-1 tie.
Irwin began to put on a show of excellence after the Vancouver score. He stopped two point-blank kicks from Whitecaps Hecotr and Ball. On the latter, Irwin made a marvelous diving stop and ran out of the crease 10 yards to pounce on the loose ball and prevent a rebound shot.
The Diplomat forwards seemed to go flat in the middle of the second half. They obviously missed leading scorer Alan Green, forced to sit out the game with his right instep bruised from a kick in Sunday's victory over Seattle.
Green practiced for about 10 minutes before the game but decided not to risk further injury. He is expected to return to the lineup Saturday night for the away game against the California Surf.
The Whitecap forwards, on the other hand, swarmed all over goalie Irwin.They bombarded him with seven shots on goal in the first 20 minutes of the second half while the Dips managed only one at Parkes.
Diplomat Coach Gordon Bradley then pepped up his front line by inserting striker Ken Mokgojoa. He flew off the bench and immediately sparked the team with two length-of-the-field dashes that sent the 12,321 fans into a frenzy. On Mokgojoa's last romp, he split two Vancouver defenders and rifled a right-footed shot that Parkes saves with a dive.
Mokgojoa was still on the field driving Whitecap defenders crazy when right midfielder Askew scored his fifth goal, assisted by Cannell and right back Iarusci. CAPTION: Picture, Diplomat winger Joe Horvath tries to get ball around Whitecap keeper Phil Parkes. He failed. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post