The Washington Diplomats are hurting. Their 2-1 loss Wednesay night to the Portland Timbers was painful enough, but was made more so when the club found out the services of several key players would be lost because of injuries.
The worst of the casualties is Dip midfielder, Joe Horvath, who was flown back to Washington last night to be examined by team physician Carl MacCartee. The Dips' third-leading scorer suffered severly damaged ligaments in his right knee in the Portland game.
If surgery is needed, Horvath will probably be sidelined for the rest of the season.
Starting goalkeeper Bill Irwin injured his right shoulder in the game and will almost certainly miss the Dips' contest against Los Angeles Friday night.
"If the game against the Aztecs was tonight, Irwin would definitely not play," said frustrated Washington Coach Gordon Bradley from Los Angeles. "And we're only talking about a lapse of 24 hours until game time tomorrow. You're probably not going to see much improvement. So Dragan Radovich will probably be in goal tomorrow."
Another midfielder, Wim Jansen, suffered a pulled hamstring in his right leg and will miss three to four weeks, according to Bradley.
"There's a jinx on us," said Bradley. 'This couldn't come at a worse time with a game Friday and two more on the road. (Johan) Cruyff's playing on one leg (referring to his pulled muscle), (Ken) Mokgojoa's out for another 10 days at least (broken blood vessel in his leg). We've got eight key players injured. Sonny Askew might be forced into action tomorrow night."
Bradley seemed most flustered by Horvath's injury. "That synthetic surface in Portland is largely the cause of Joe's injury -- there's no doubt in my mind," said Bradley. "Joe planted his foot in a normal fashion but it seemed to lock in the turf and then his weight shifted on top of his right leg."
Andy Dolich, the Dips' general manager, described the loss of Horvath as "an absolutely crushing blow to the team. He's been coming on strong. Having him on the field gives us the option of a lightning foot from 30 to 35 yards. It takes an option out of our defense. We just don't need any more injuries."
Bradley said he would wait until after a light practice last night to determine who would play in place of Horvath and Jansen and whether or not the club would need to acquire replacements.
"It's difficult to start signing players in July," Bradley said. "We want to look at players in our own league first, of course, but the cutoff for signing players is midnight, July 13. And soccer is out of season in other parts of the world. Even the top players are out of shape by now. This couldn't have happened at a worse time."
Unfortunately for the Dips, Bradley's grim outlook is probably correct.
His slow starters had just put together a four-game winning streak and with a win over Portland could have picked up ground on second-place Toronto, which lost Wednesday night to New York.
But the Timbers snapped the streak and have now beaten the Dips twice this season.
Against Portland, the Dips followed their game plan perfectly. The only thing Coach Bradley couldn't plan against was a streak of bad luck.
"We went into the match determined to keep it scoreless for the first 20 to 30 minutes," said Bradley. "We thought Cryuff or (Alan) Green might give us a counterattacking goal somewhere in the middle of the game, and that might be enough.
"We did that, but then their bad goal made us change." Bradley was referring to the Timbers' first goal 52 minutes into the game.