Joe Horvath, Sonny Askew and Johan Cruyff provided the offense, Tommy O'Hara, Bob Iarusci and newly acquired Nick Mijatovic provided the defense. And the weatherman provided a clear, cool, sublime-for-soccer day.
All those factors made the Washington Diplomats home opener a rousing success, the Dips manhandling the Philadelphia Fury, 3-1, in front of 24,203 yesterday at RFK Stadium. It was a record opening-day crowd for soccer in Washington.
"Now this is what a major league franchise should be like," said Sonny Werblin, president of Madison Square Garden, glancing at the horde of reporters around his players. "You win and everyone wants to see you."
The Diplomats, now 1-2, dominated the Fury (0-2) from the outset but kept the outcome in doubt almost the full 90 minutes by missing a seemiingly endless string of opportunities.
"We missed countless chances," Coach Gordon Bradley said. "I was thinking in the beginning that it was going to be one of those days."
It wasn't oneof those days largely because of Horvath, the lanky Hungarian midfielder Bradley called expendable prior to the season because of the Dips' acquisitons.
Horvath, rescued from limbo status this week because of an injury to Juan Jose Lozano, looked indispensable. He dominated the left side of the field, setting up teammates with sharp,accurate passes, and closing out the scoring with a 25-yard right-footed kick past Philadelphia goalie Bob Rigby.
"You know Josef is really on when he scores with his right foot," Bradley said. Horvath is left-footed. Cruyff, the 32-year-old Dutchman acquired for $1.5 million in the offseason, didn't disappoint, making a number of dazzling runs, constantly setting up teammates, and assisting on Askew's first goal.
That goal, which came at the 30:07 mark, was as pretty a score as seen in RFK in many years.
The play began with Cruyff charging down the left side, evading two defenders and moving into the penalty box.
Everyone in the stadium -- including Rigby -- waited for Cruyff to shoot.
Instead Cruyff, hawked closely by Tony Glavin, slid the ball backwards toward Askew.
Askew also had expected Cruyff to shoot. The ball got past him. Askew turned his back to the goal to control the ball. Then he whirled 180 degrees and fired a low line drive 15 yards into the net. The stunned Rigby never saw it.
"I just figured that if I was in bad position, then the goalie must be in bad position too," Askew said. "I figured if I couldn't see what he was doing, he couldn't see what I was doing either. I just shot it."
The goal gave the Dips a 1-0 lead and at least partly erased the memory of Rigby stopping a Bobby Stokes penalty kick 8:27 into the game. That penalty kick had been set up by a gorgeous Cruyff run from midfield into the penalty box, where he was taken down by defender Radi Martinovic.
But Rigby guessed correctly on Stokes, the Dips penalty shot specialists, diving left to knock the shot down.
"That made Sonny's goal especially important," Bradley said."If we hadn't been ahead at half (they were, 1-0) after missing a penalty it would have been tough. As it was, I just reminded them that we still had work to do the second half."
The Dips kept working and had one great chance to score in the first five minutes of the half when Cruyff set Alan Green up with a perfect cross. But Green, who ran well despite spraining his left ankle two weeks ago, couldn't get the shot on net, even with Rigby pulled out of position by Cruyff.
Four minutes later, the Fury almost got even. Djoko Kokovic sent a low crossing pass through the box which Washington goalie Bill Irwin tried to smother. The ball squirted out to Irwin's hands right into the foot of David McWilliams.
With Irwin flat on his face, McWilliams appeared to have an open net from 10 yards out. But Tommy O'Hara, always on the spot, flashed onto the goal line and kicked the ball away. Glavin's rebound attempted went wide.
"I saw Billy dive for the cross and thought he might have trouble with it," O'Hara said. "I just ran behind him to the line and tried to back him up. I was lucky he kicked it almost right where I was standing."
Saved once, the Dipmomats finally converted for a 2-0 lead. Taking an indirect kick from the left side 22 yards from the net, Horvath lined a pass through the goal area.
The ball skidded through a maze of players to Askew. He batted it down, controlled it and slapped it past Rigby from eight yards away.
"I was just following the play," Askew said. "The ball somehow got through everyone and was right on my foot. I just fired."
The goal, at 58:33, seemed to give the Diplomats a comfortable margin. That feeling didn't last long.
Less than two minutes after the goal, Kokovich lined a pass into the penalty area. It went right onto the head of Andrew Parkinson.
Parkinson got off a weak 10-yard shot past Irwin, caught flat-footed. That made it 2-1 at 60:06 and, having already blown one late lead this season, the Dips had to be apprehensive.
"We had chances after we made it 2-1," Philadelphia Coach Eddie Firmani said. "We've had trouble at midfield all season and that hurt us again today. sWhen our midfielders let down, we lost the ball game."
Just as crucial was Washington's cintinued aggressiveness. Instead of falling into a defensive shell, the Diplomats continued to press.
The tactic paid off.
After several minutes of constant pressure at the Philadelphia end, Horvath dribbled into the middle and, using his right foot, fired a 25-yard bullet. Rigby probably would have stopped it but was screened. He didn't see the shot until too late.
The score came at 80:51 and the Diplomats had accomplished their objectives for the day: good weather, a good crowd and the maximum nine points in the standings.
"We still don't quite have the flow," Cruyff said. "I'm still not satisfied. We played very well at times. There is still work to do.
"But," he added with a smile, "we are getting better."