The Washington Diplomats' defense showed up at RFK Stadium last night.
The Dips threw a blanket over the Vancouver offense and went on to blank the defending Soccer Bowl champions, 2-0, in a NASL match before 17,176 fans. Johan Cruyff and Tony Crescitelli each scored goals to help the Dips to their third straight win and improve their season record to 7-9.
The Whitecaps (9-9) came to town with a four-game winning streak but never had a chance. Washington outhustled and outfought Vancouver for every ball and made its first shutout of the season look easy.
"It wasn't that easy," said Washington goalie Bill Irwin, who had his problems early in the season. "Maybe this is the start of something. We let in four goals on Sunday (as the Dips beat San Jose, 5-4) and we knew we had to fight a little harder."
Vancouver managed only seven shots and only one of them, a header late in the game by Ray Hankin, had any chance of reaching the net.
Washington jumped ahead on Cruyff's second goal in two games, and his second of the season, and was never headed.
Operating at 60 percent efficiency, Cruyff was running down a pass from Wim Jansen and was tackled, Redskin style, by Whitecap defender Jerry Gray at the penalty mark in the Whitecap box.
A penalty was called and Cruyff who started off the Dip four-goal first half with a penalty kick in Sunday's game, easily rolled in his first shot to put his team up, 1-0, at the 18:51 mark.
Vancouver didn't dispute the call. "It looked as though he (Cruyff) was shoved when he fell," said Whitecap striker Carl Valentine, who was held without a shot by Tommy O'Hara. "The referee called it Washington's way. I thought it was a good call."
With a 1-0 lead, Washington went into its defensive shell. O'Hara shadowed Valentine, Nick Mijatovic manhandled Vancouver's other striker, Trevor Whymark, and Don Droege and Bobby Iarusci took care of any other blue-shirted stranger who dared enter the Dip penalty area.
"We could have played much better, but Washington did a good job," said Valentine, who scored a hat trick in Vancouver's last win. "We could never get going offensively."
Washington changed its defense slightly and the strategy paid off. Instead of sending defenders forward to help out on offense, Coach Gordon Bradley kept two of them back to prevent the visitors from penetrating.
"They're a solid, patient team," Mijatovic granted. "We just played serious defense and everyone played his position and wasn't trying to go up and score a goal. When we play this way, not many teams can beat us."
The Dips held a brief meeting Tuesday morning to "air out a few grievances." Several players felt the lengthy practices the day before a game were leaving them fatigued late in the contest. The team practiced only a few minutes following the meeting and the players seemed fresh in the final minutes.
"The fact we didn't train that hard didn't make that much difference," Bradley asserted. "The meeting was positive and we went out and played like a team. We were just more disciplined out there. Everyone was involved on the field."
Washington, which took 17 shots, had several excellent opportunities to break the game open early.
On one series in the first half, the Dips fired three point-blank shots but a foot here, a back there and a shoulder prevented a Washington goal. Crescitelli had nothing in front of him but net on an eight-yard attempt but Paul Nelson slid in just in time to kick the ball away. The ball bounded to Joe Horvath, who launched a bullet that struck a Whitecap on the back. Alan Green controlled the rebound and his shot hit the goalkeeper.
The Dips got their insurance goal at the 75:46 mark. Horvath sent a corner kick into a pack of leaping players and Mijatovic outleaped everyone for the ball. His header went straight up in the air and Green somehow, controlled the ball and slipped it to Crescitelli next to him. The striker, who had two goals in his first start Sunday, hit it perfect and Nelson and goalkeeper Bruce Grobelaar never saw it.
"I should have had another. My header late in the game just hit the crossbar," said a happy Crescitelli. "I'm beginning to feel more comfortable with the offense now. Having Johan out there really helps. He keeps things going, keeps us alert and reminds me to get my man. He has eyes in back of his head."
Cruyff, still hobbled by a pulled thigh muscle, moved hesitantly but was nevertheless effective. His passes were usually right on the money and his prescience caused Vancouver to overshift on defense. The Whitecaps got mixed up chasing Cruyff and he was consequently fouled to set his penalty kick. CAPTION: Picture, Vancouver's Buzz Parsons is a step off Johan Cruyff's pace. $1Cruyff scores Dips' first goal, his second in two games, in 2-0 win. By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post