Johan Cruyff, who vowed last week he would score more goals and "be spectacular," yesterday fulfilled that pledge.
The Dutch midfielder knocked home two goals and assisted on three others, tying a club record of seven points in one game, to lead the streaking Washington Diplomats to a 6-3 victory over the Houston Hurricane before 14,177 at RFK Stadium.
The Dips won their fourth straight game, raised their season mark to 8-9 and tied second-place Toronto in the National Conference Eastern Division. aEach team has 79 point.
The oppressive humidity and 108-degree temperature on the field never seemed to bother the confident Dips. Washington controlled play and the visitors, weak defensively, quickly began to sense they were in for a long afternoon.
Washington jumped ahead, 2-0, when Tony Crescitelli and Joe Horvath scored after prefect passes from Cruyff in the game's first 11 minutes. The Dips were ahead, 5-1, at the half, and never were threatened.
"You come in here, knowing they have won three in a row, have players like Cruyff, (Alan) Green, Horvath and (Wim) Jansen and you have to worry," said Terry Fisher, the Hurricane assistant coach handling the team in place of Coach Eckhard Krautzum, who was in Mexico scouting.
"We prepared tactically for them, but when you fall behind, 2-0, before you know it and 5-1 at the half, you forget about tactics. The bottom line is we got beat to death."
The Hurricane burial came early. With just over 8 1/2 minutes elapsed, Cruyff outfoxed two players and lofted a pass toward Crescitelli.
The ball hung in the air as if it had a string attached to it and Crescitelli, inserted in the starting lineup two games ago, got a step on defender Matt O'Sullivan. Crescitelli punched the ball over the head of Houston goalkeeper Roland Sikinger to put the Dips up, 1-0. It was his fourth goal of the year, ll in the last three games.
"Hey, a left-footed shot, too," Crescitelli said. "But that pass, oh, it couldn't have been more perfect. Johan put it right on my foot. I looked and saw his eyes go up and I knew it was coming. He makes it look so easy."
For those who missed the first act of the Cruyff Magic Show, the 32-year-old field captain soon offered an encore.
This time, Horvath saw Cruyff's eyes go skyward and immediately ran toward the box. Within seconds, Cruyff had slithered his way past three Houston statues and sent his teammate another on-the-money floater.
Horvath, who has a powerful left foot zippered in a 16-yard shot that skipped off the top of the post and bounded post sikinger for a 2-0 advantage at 10:12.
Cryuff, who received a standing ovation when he was replaced late in the game, said afterward that both passes turned into goals because "we were more organized and looking for eachother."
"Everything went well out there," said Cruyff, who has four goals and nine assists this season, despite getting no goals and four assists his first nine games.
Cruyff's third assist, at 25:11, allowed Green to roll the ball into the corner of the net under the diving sikinger.
For the first 36 minutes, Washington's offense could not have been better. Although the Dips aren't fearsome defensively, goalie Bill Irwin had had only three shots aimed at him and a second straight shutout seemed imminent.
But a Washington defender slipped and allowed Edurado Massasco to get loose. The Houston striker took a pass from Carlo Peruci and booted in his fifth goal of the year to cut the deficit to 3-1 at 36:07.
Washington, which outshot Houston, 21-11, was back on the attack before Marasco had received his customary kudos.
Green and Crescitelli missed excellent shots before Cruyff scored on a textbook header. Green, who rarely has a chance to earn an assist, sent a low cross in the box and Cruyff seemed to come from nowhere. He dived past a defender and flicked the ball into the net for a 4-1 Dip lead.
Cruyff nearly hit the post when he left his feet and a hush fell over the stadium. But the spry Dutchman, who says he is nearly recovered from a pulled thigh muscle, bounced up an was mobbed by his teammates.
"I felt Johan was the man of the match Wednesday night (when Washington defeated Vancouver, 2-0) but against Houston, he was flawless," Washington Coach Gordon Bradley said. "He directed the Team, had everyone moving offensively and, as always, was picking the right time to deliver the ball. A good pass can destroy a defense."
About a minute after Cruyff's goal, Green executed a perfect over-the-head bicycle kick, Pele style, for a goal and a 5-1 Dip lead. The five goals tied a club record for most goals scored in a half.
"I was trying for a cross," said Green, who has 15 goals his season. "I had never done that in my life."
Sullivan had Green pinned just inside the back line when the Dip striker gathered in the pass from Sakib Viteskic, who had a fine game. Suddenly Green did a back flip, caught the ball perfectly and landed on his back as the ball flew past Sikinger.
Bradley said he didn't need to remind the players about the letdown in the San Jose game last week when Washington had a four-goal lead and eked out a 5-4 victory win.
"They remembered about that game," Bradley said. "We talked about other things. But we still have some work to do defensively."
Washington fans who witnessed the San Jose game had a deja vu sensation when Marusco scored his second goal of the game to make it 5-2 at 56:27.
Cruyff then offered one last gem. After Green was fouled by Stewart Jump just outside the penalty box, Cruf set up to put the ball in play on the direct direct kick. He began pointing and yelling for his teammates to "Run here, run there" as Houston set up its seven man wall several yards in front of Cruyff.
The Hurricane players probably still don't know what happened. Cruyff stepped up to the ball and punched it over the wall and a frustrated Sikinger for a 6-2 lead.
"I was just talking to everyone, anyone," said Cruffy, trying to explain the tricky goal. "I could see the net. I just kicked it over them. Not incredible."
Houston (7-11) was finished. Peruci scored another goal, giving Houston three bonus points and allowing the Hurricane to more pass Memphis into third place in the American Conference Central Division. The Hurricane won that division last year with a 22-8 mark.
"I have to be pleased with the win," said Bradley, whose club swept the three-game home stand and has won four games in 12 days. "The offense was the best I've seen it for an entire half. The effort was there.We have to maintain that for the next two weeks and we'll be fine."
Washington will play at Portland, Los Angeles, San Diego and New England before facing Seattle at RFK July 16.
"We don't mind going on the road now," Green said. "Beautiful game. We're getting there."