The Los Angeles Aztecs helped their largest crowd in history, 48,483, celebrate Independence Day tonight with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Washington Diplomats in the Rose Bowl.
With the record attendance brought out by an after-game fireworks show and the return of Johan Cruyff, the Aztecs used Leo Van Veen's score 2:30 into overtime to send the limping Dips (8-11) to their second straight defeat and their eighth loss in 10 road games.
More importantly, Washington has apparently again lost the services of Cruyff and Tony Crescitelli. Cruyff aggravated a previous thigh injury and Crescitelli pulled a thigh muscle early in the first half.
Van Veen's goal came after a cross by Mount Vernon High School product (Annandale Boys Club) Gary Etherington, who had entered the game at the 61:35 mark of the second half. Etherington's cross was headed by Chris Dangerfield and the ball came down to the unguarded Van Veen.
"It was a cross, I had no chance," explained Diplomat goalie Dragan Hadovich, making his first start for the injured Bill Irvin. "There was a header, a lot of guys went up for it and it came out to him (Van Veen). He had the whole goal to shoot at."
"It was a shame it had to end that way," said Dips Coach Gordon Bradley.
"Radovich played exceptionally well. Unfortunately, not only did we lose, but we lost two more players. I don't see either being ready for San Diego (Wednesday, July 9)".
The Aztecs dominated the early going, but Washington had the first good shots on goal and game's first score.
Los Angeles goalie Alfredo Anhiclo, who entered the game as the NASL's third leading keeper with a goals-against average of 1.17, smothered the ball just as Crescitelli was about to kick from 18 feet out.
Moments later Anhielo dove through the air to his left to stop Cruyff's hard boot.
The Diplomats finally scored, but not before another injury, this time to Crescitelli, who was replaced by Sonny Askew at 16:12. Askew was making his first appearance since June 7, when he broke a bone in his right foot in Chicago against the Sting.
At 17:11, Green took a cross from Gary Darrell six yards out and headed the ball past Anhielo. It was Green's 17th of the season, a club mark, and this marked the third straight game in which he has scored.
Also receiving an assist was Don Droege, who had taken a throw-in and beaten his defender, Franz St. Lot, before passing down the left sideline to Darrell.
The Diplomats then missed several excellent scoring chances, including a header by Cruyff which hit the crossbar at 31:00 off an Askew pass.
The Aztecs began to pick up the tempo and it finally paid off. A series of sharp passes from Mihalj Keri to Javier Aguirre to center forward Luis Fernando produced a Los Angeles goal at 33:02.
Fernando, who had scored 10 goals in his six previous games, beat Radovich from 20 yards out, drilling the ball into the right corner.
The Aztecs had another chance at 24:00 when Poli Garcia put a perfect cross past the diving Radovich. But Fernando, closing from the left, couldn't quite reach the ball.
At the half, both teams were credited with 10 shots on goals. Washington led in corner kicks, 3-2, with Anhielo given three saves to one for Radovich. l
Injuries continued to take their toll on the Diplomats. As the second half began, Bobby Stokes replaced Cruyff. The Dip forward, who had made his NASL debut last year by leading the Aztecs into the playoffs, reinjured his right thigh.
He had managed two shots in the first half. Without Cruyff, the Dip offense became nonexistent. Washington didn't get a shot on goal for nearly 20 minutes into the second half.
Only Radovich's play kept the game tied. First, he snared a 16-foot shot by Keri, and minutes later, he knocked Garcia's header over the goal post just when the shot appeared ready to fall in for a score.
The Diplomats didn't threaten until the 64-minute mark (26 minutes remaining). But Bob Iarusci's header off an Askew corner kick was picked off by Anhielo.
The Diplomats had an excellent chance to win their third of 10 road games following a tripping call just outside the Aztec box with 3:38 to play.
Sakib Viteskic took the free kick, centering into a crowd of players in front of the Aztec goal. Iavusci got his foot on the ball in the goal mouth, but Anhielo made the save. Droege got the rebound, but his shot was wide left.
The Aztecs lost much of their offense when Fernando was replaced by Chris Dangerfield at 83:52. Fernando suffered a slight muscle pull in his upper left leg.