Ken Mokgojoa, the fastest winger on the Washington Diplomats, said yesterday he is confused, nervous and has lost a bit of his confidence.
The South African, who possesses the speed and moves to make him one of the elite forwards in the NASL, was expected to join Alan Green up front and, along with offseason mid-field acquisitions Johan Cruyff, Juan Jose Lozano and Wim Jansen, give the Dips one of the most potent offense this side of the Cosmos. It hasn't happened.
After a sparkling training camp the 5-foot-11, 155-pound Mokgojoa was used as a substitute in the Tampa Bay and Tulsa games. He looked out of place much of the time and lost the ball several times. In the two games, Mokgojoa took only two shots (missed) in 105 minutes.
"I don't like people telling me what to do, yelling at me," said Mokgojoa. "I had a good camp. I'm faster, stronger and was set for a good year. But I haven't adjusted well to the new players. And I knew when the season started I would not be . . . (starting).
"We have a better team this year and I think we'll get better as a team. It's tough to stay prepared but I want to play. I know I didn't do much the first two games. They were the worst I've played since coming here," said Mokgojoa, who is in the final year of a three-year contract.
"But I've talked with Cruyff and the coaches and I feel better. Last year, we had a different attack. With Cruyff we've had to change. But I don't plan to let down. I'll keep trying."
Mokgojoa didn't play in Washington's 3-1 victory over Philadelphia but is hoping he'll see some action against undefeated (3-0) Dallas at RFK Stadium at 2:30 P.M. Sunday.
Mokgojoa may get his first starting assignment against the Tornado because winger Bobby Stokes strained a calf muscle during practice yesterday and his status is questionable.
No one on the team questions Mokgojoa's ability. In his first season here, he scored 10 goals -- setting a club record by scoring in six straight games -- and had six assists for 26 points. Last year, Coach Gordon Bradley used Mokgojoa mainly in the latter stages of games and the forward responded with four goals and one assist.
An excellent one-on-one performer, Mokgojoa has often been brilliant. His problem seems to be consistency.
"He once went through three Minnesota players and scored a goal. They stood around and couldn't believe it," said Bradley. "But Kenny has not quite settled in with the team this year. Maybe he has been a bit awed by the new players. He didn't do well the first games and I was disappointed in him. But we've talked and he has looked better in practice. But when he gets his chance, he has to show something."
A shy, quiet, unassuming type, Mokgojoa says he only wants to fit in and be a part of the team. But at the same time, he doesn't want to spend the season on the bench.
I'll see what happens Sunday and then I'll talk to Coach Bradley again," said Mokgojoa, nicknamed "The Horse" because of his loping strides. "Our system is not geared to my game because I like the three forwards up front. But I can adjust. I haven't been too aggressive because I was too conscious about making a mistake. Not any more."