The largest opening day crowd in Washington Diplomats history came to see international star Johan Cruyff work his magic yesterday.
He did, but the "other member" of the Diplomats' $4 million midfield and a player written off in the preseason also played critical roles in the Dips' 3-1 win over Philadelphia before 24,203 at RFK.
"you can't help feeling like the other guy in our midfield," said Sonny Askew. "we say we have four midfielders, but the only names you hear are (Johan) Cruyff, (Juan Jose) Lozano and (Wim) Jansen. But that'll never change. If we spent $4 million to get them (and pay their salaries) then you have to talk about them. I have respect for them but I can play too. I just have to show what I can do."
Askew showed an enthusaistic crowd he can play soccer. The four-year veteran from Essex Community College near Baltimore scored two goals to help the Dips win their first game of the season.
" the goals were for my grandma," Askew said. "our offense hadn't played all that well that last two games (both losses) but we were into the game against them (Philadelphia)."
If Askew is the "other man" in Coach Gordon Bradley's four-midfield alignment, then Joe Horvath certainly qualifies as the "forgotten man."
One of Washington's most valuable performers last year, Horvath wasn't even invited to training camp this year. Bradley, having acquired Cruyff, Jansen and Lozano, deemed Horvath expendable and tried desperately to unload the midfielder.
"i was disappointed I was not able to come to camp," said Horvath, who started in place of the injured Lozano. "when the indoor season was over Gordon told me to stay home and he would call me. I just sat home."
The call came last week when Lozano's score foot became worse. Horvath played well in practice for three days and Bradley started him.
"i know Joe is a very good player and I had no hesitation about putting him in the game," Bradley said.
Horvath was all over the field, stealing passes, short-circuiting Fury offensive surges before they got started and dealing off soft pases to teammates. He was credited with an assist on Askew's second goal and added the clincher with a 25-yard rocket that goalie Bob Rigby still is looking for.
"i hit that one with my right foot," said Horvath, who is left-footed, "but I can score goals with either foot. It is great playing with Cruyff because he is great. But I can play too. I think I blend in well with them. Sonny hit two good goals and since no one was in front of me, I just shot."
Horvath's performance didn't surprise any of his teammates.
I'm not the coach but Joe is a great asset to any team," said Dip defender Tommy O'Hara, who also had an outstanding afternoon. "we spent a lot of money to bring in new players but Joe Horvath is right up there with them. We know Joe can play."
Askew, for one, was glad to see the tall, gangly Horvath racing down the left side of the field.
"if I go 80 yards on a run, Joe puts the ball right there on my foot," said Askew, who plays right midfielder. "he hits the ball better than anyone here. Everyone knows that. I know he complements my game."
On several instances during the game,Horvath, Askew and Cruyff teamed up on perfect give and go passes and kept consistent pressure on the Philadelphia defense. Cruyff, who just missed joining the scoring twice, dropped off a nice pass that Askew converted into the first goal.
Fury Coach Eddie Firmani said his game plan wasn't geared to stop Cruyff but just to slow him down long enough to throw the Washington offense into disarray. It didn't work.
"i thought Fran (O'Brien) did a good job on Cruyff most of the way," Firmani said. "but our midfielders just didn't do a good job of picking up the other players. Askew and Horvath got too much freedom and caused us one or two problems -- both of them goals."
While both Askew and Horvath were bathing in yesterday's glory, both also realize it wouldn't take much for them to become forgotten again.
"the people here know me," said Askew. "i just have to keep playing my game."
Horvath's problem is a bit different. When Lozano's foot heals, what happens to Horvath?
"i know he (Lozano) is a good player," Horvath said. "but I want to play, too. Maybe people know who I am again."