When the Washington Diplomats put together their 1980 media guide last month, there was no profile of Joszef Horvath in the book, even though Horvath was under contract to the team.
The reason for Horvath's exclusion was simple: he had been declared expendable by Coach Gordon Bradley and it was only a matter of time until he would be traded.
"We have too many playmakers in the midfield," Bradley said immediately after Washington had acquired Johan Cruyff, Wim Jansen and Juan Jose Lozano. "Joszef is a good player but he's expendable now."
Bradley's desire to trade Horvath had little to do with concern over too many playmakers. It had to do with concern over too many egos.
Because he had problems with the language, Horvath often had trouble communicating with his teammates last season. He had a tendency to brood after a bad game because he could not understand why he did not see the ball more often.
With Cruyff, Jansen and Lozano added to the lineup, Bradley was apparently worried there would not be enough soccer balls -- or kudos -- to go around. Someone, he decided, had to go. Horvath was chosen.
But Bradley could not swing the deal he wanted for Horvath, so he remained in nonroster limbo throughout March. Then, a week ago, when Lozano's injured left instep did not respond to treatment. Bradley called Horvath in Rochester and asked him to return to Washington, at least to work out.
Horvath, second-leading scorer for Washington in 1979, was on a plane in a matter of hours.
By Friday, his aggressive play in workouts had convinced Bradley to start him in place of the injured Lozano against the Philadelphia Fury. In that game Sunday, he was a good as any player on the field, scoring once, assisting once and dominating the left side of the field during Washington's 3-1 win.
"I wanted to prove something," the Hungarian said in his broken English. "I know I am a good player. I was glad to have a chance to show it."
Horvath's play Sunday surprised few of his teammates. "We all know how good Joe is," said defender Robert Iarusci. "He was one of our most valuable players last year. He's a super talent. Personally, I'm glad to see him back."
Several players said they could not understand Bradley's willingness to part with a player of Horvath's ability.
"I'm not paid to manage that team," said one starter. "But you've got to be crazy to just want to unload a player like Joe. There aren't five midfielders in the league better than he is."
After Horvath's outstanding performance, Bradley is boxed in. Lozano's foot was placed in a splint yesterday and will remain in it for a week. He probably will be out two or three weeks.
But what happens when Lozano returns? Lozano showed in the Tampa Bay game he is a player of exceptional skills who deserves starting status on any NASL team. What's more, Madison Square Garden has invested $800,000 in him. He must play.
Cruyff and Jansen also must play and so must Sonny Askew, partly because he is an American, but also because he is improving every day and has virtually unlimited potential.
Again, Horvath would appear to be the odd man out.
"I'm not even thinking about that right now," Bradley said yesterday. "The way we've been going with injuries, we may never get healthy. You don't win in this league with just 11 players anyway. I'm glad to have the flexibility a player like Joszef can give us."
Yet, until two weeks ago. Bradley was trying to unload that flexibility because he thought it might be a burden.
Horvath says he wants to stay in Washington and he wants to start. He is not the kind of player who will be happy in a reserve role. Bradley could move Jansen back to defense and start four offensive-minded midfielders. Historically, however, he has always leaned toward a defense-oriented lineup.
"Lozano's injury could be a blessing in disguise," said one player Sunday. "It may have given Gordon a chance to not make a mistake he was about to make."