Steve Byrd and Barney Boyce were not exactly what Washington Coach Gordon Bradley had in mind when he recently said, "We need a couple of new players to help us immediately."
Before the Diplomats' surprising 2-1 victory at Rochester Tuesday night, they had lost six of their previous seven games and appeared on the verge of collapse.
Injuries to four of six midfielders and several other players, forced Bradley to search for help. Meantime, Bradley had little choice but to include rookies Byrd and Boyce on the 16-man traveling squad.
"We just don't have anyone else," Bradley said. "And it isn't likely we'll find any good available players right away. So I decided to let the young Americans play. It's a big step for them, but the only way they'll get experience is to get playing time."
After Byrd and Boyce's performances the last two games, Bradley may call off his search.Byrd, 20, decided after his sophomore year at Old Dominion to go pro and was drafted in the third round by Washington.He started against Fort Lauderdale Sunday and against Rochester.
The 5-foot-9, 150-pound native of England played well in both games. He is blessed with good speed and is a fine shot. Byrd was guarded tightly by Rochester and could nto get into the offense as much as he wanted.
"I wasn't nervous," Byrd said. "It's just a good feeling to be out there."
Byrd was treated roughly by Rochester defenders, and suffered a slightly pulled hamstring when he tripped. Boyce, who would have started if Bradley had decided he wanted more speed up from, replaced Byrd at the 66:46 mark.
"I didn't want to go in under those circumstances, but I was happy to get my first chance to play," said Boyce, first seen by Bradley as a 16-year-old white the latter coached the Cosmos.
"The guys played a few balls to me right away to get me into the game pretty quick. I made a few good passes, not difficult ones, but accurate.
"I made a mistake misjudging a ball and got fooled," said Boyce, 19. "That's what set up the (winning) goal by Joe Horvath."
Happy with his team's effort in Rochester, Bradley said he no longer feels uncomfortable about playing Boyce and Byrd.
"Because of our injuries, we need them," Bradley said. "They've been baptized and they've learned something. They've applied themselves very well in practice and I was pleased with their play."
The victory over the Lancers may have given Washington a big lift. The Dips, now 5-9, can make up valuable ground in the division over the next 10 days when they play San Jose, Vancouver and Houston, all at RFK Stadium.
Horvath, back in the lineup after a two-game suspension, scored both goals and looked sharp, as did fellow midfielder Sakib Viteskic. The back line of Don Droege, Bobby Iarusci, Tommy O'hara and Nick Mijatovic and goal keeper Bill Irwin, also played well, limiting Rochester to 12 shots.
"We needed this game very badly," Bradley said. "It should have restored some of our confidence. Now we have three games at home and hopefully we can get some points."