"We're getting it together" has been the oft-repeated phrase in the Washington Diplomats' camp this week. Today, the Dips should find out how together they are.
The Dallas Tornado will be the opponent at RFK Stadium at 2:30 p.m. and, with a 3-0 record and a plethora of newly acquired foreign talent, the Tornado may be the best team Washington (1-2) has faced to date.
"They're strong throughout." Diplomat Coach Gordon Bradley said. "With a player like (Klaus) Toppmoeller up front, they're also got a strong defense and (Billy) Phillips has been doing an excellent job in goal for them."
The Diplomats could be hurting somewhat on offense today, with striker Bobby Stokes listed as a doubtful starter because of an injured calf muscle. Kenneth Mokgojoa will start if Stokes can't go.
Other than Stokes, the Dips will start the same lineup that beat the Philadelphia Fury, 3-1, last Sunday. That means Joe Horvath will again be on the left side of the midfield instead of Juan Jose Lozano, sidelined with an instep problem.
Both teams have players capable of spectacular individual moves, most notably Toppmoeller for Dallas and Johan Cruyff for the Dips.
Cruyff was a major factor in the Philadelphia game in spite of a knee bruise that continues to bother him. His long runs downfield kept Washington in control even through he had trouble connecting with Stokes and Alan Green at times.
"There is still work to be done," Cruyff said after the Philadelphia game. "But as long as we get better with each game, we will do well."
The Dips will have to be better today than they were against Philadelphia.
They missed numerous chances around the net last week and are not likely to get as many opportunities today.
What's more, they will need a sharper performance from goalie Bill Irwin.
"We need to win at home." Bradley understated. "I honestly think this will be as tough a home match as we face all season including the Cosmos."
The difference is psychological. Bradley knows that when the Cosmos come to town his team will be skyhigh for their arch-rivals. Dallas is talented and the players know that. But Dallas is not the Cosmos.
If the Dips have an advantage, it is the grass field. Dallas played its first three games in Texas Stadium on artificial turf.
Still, if they are to win, the Diplomats will need a maximum effort from everybody. By dusk tonight they should have a good idea of just how "together" they are one month into the season.
Advance ticket sales have not been as good this week as last and the club is hoping for good weather and another big walkup sale.Because tickets were going slowly, the team dipped into its late-season advertising budget for some extra radio ads. A crowd of 15,000 or more would make team officials happy . . . Sonny Askew, in his fourth year in the NASL, turned 23 thursday.