The game had been over for 20 minutes but it was obvious that Toronto Blizzard Coach Keith Eddy was still in a near state of shock.
"They were dead," he said. "Dead, dead, dead. Down 4-1 playing a man short you just don't win soccer games."
Except that yesterday the Washington Diplomats did just that, somehow coming from 4-1 down with 30 minutes remaining - while playing a man short - to beat the Blizzard, 5-4, at RFK Stadium in front of 11,856 disbelieving fans.
"They just died in the heat," said the Dips' coach, Gordon Bradley. "You could see their knees buckling. The last part of the game some of their players couldn't make a trot."
The Dips were not exactly having a picnic with the stifling humidity. Defender Robert Iarusci said afterward he had "blind spots" the last 20 minutes and a number of players were struggling when they had to return to the field after the game so fans could take their pictures.
"I thought the second half we showed the kind of character we've got as a team," said striker Alan Green, who exploded out of a nine-game scoreless streak with two goals, two assists and the game-winning shot with 3:46 left. "When we were down 4-1 I had to think, "No way," but every one kept plugging away and plugging away."
And the Dips got back into the game quickly, with two goals in the next five minutes.
"Right then," said Bradley, "I knew we were going to win."
The victory raised the Dips' record to 19-9 for 169 points and enabled them to pass the Minnesota Kicks for the second best mark in the NASL National Conference, each team having two games remaining. For Toronto, the stunning loss dimmed its playoff hopes considerably. The Blizzard is 13-16 for 124 points with one game to play.
"This is a killer," said Eddy. "It looked like it was going to be our best win of the season and it ended up being our worst loss."
For 60 minutes the Blizzard looked like anything but losers. Although the Dips started fast, getting a goal when Joe Horvath's shot hit the post and rebounded into the net off Toronto defender Willie McVie at 1:19, the Blizzard was the better team the first half.
Adding to the Dips' problems was the ejection by referee David Syme of Don Droege at the 22-minute mark. Droege became entangled with Toronto's Ivan Lukacevic and the two went down.
Although he later claimed it was accidental, McVie kicked Droege while the young American was on the ground. Upset and bleeding from the mouth, Droege responded by kicking McVie. Syme saw none of this but one of the linesmen saw Droege's kick and, after consulting with him, Syme ejected Droege.
"I couldn't believe they just called me," said Droege. "I know it was stupid for me to kick the guy, I've never done anything like that in my life before. But I'm standing there bleeding and he (Syme) tells me the linesman just saw one kick."
The Blizzard already had tied the game at 5:54 on a header by Peter Roe past an out-of-position Bill Irwin and now went on the offensive. Irwin had to make several good saves before the Dips regrouped and got a couple chances of their own, including another shot off the post by Horvath.
The Blizzard finally went on top, 2-1, when Lukacevic, one of the league's better shooters, took a pass from Jim Bone and blasted a 27-yard shot by Irwin at 40:18.
"It took us a while to get going again after Don got sent off," said Bobby Stokes, who eventually scored the tying goal.
Discouraged or not, the Dips looked finished when Toronto's George Gibbs scored three minutes into the second half. With 32 minutes left Bradley substituted Paul Cannell and Kenneth Mokgojoa - forwards - for midfielders Sonny Askew and Carmine Marcantonio, but he also had to put rookie Dragon Radovich in goal for Irwin in order to have two north Americans on the field.
Radovich quickly showed first-game jitters by throwing a ball right to Bone, who passed to Peter Lorimer for a 4-1 Toronto lead with 30:36 left.
But then the Dips caught their second wind, Tommy O'Hara scoring on a give-and-go with Green at 60:44 and Green getting his first goal at 65:33 from 10 yards out.
Then Stokes, taking a quick pass from Green, got his eighth goal at 79:14 for a tie and Green, on an excellent pass from Horvath, walked around diving goalie David Henderson for the game winner.
With 17 seconds left, Lorimer hit the crossbar with a 20-yard bullet that miraculously stayed out of the net, and the Dips had won. CAPTION: Picture 1, Alan Green, who had two goals, two assists, splits defenders.; Picture 2, Joe Horvath sets up Green's winning goal, Photos by James M. Thresher and John McDonnell - The Washington Post; Picture 3, goalie Bill Irwin, makes a lunging save against Blizzard.