The real Johan Cruyff stood up at RFK Stadium last night. Dealing, shucking and jiving like a schoolyard superstar.Cruyff twice turned the Seattle Sounders into soccer statues and propelled the Washington Diplomats to a 3-2 victory in front of 13,070 hot, wet fans.
"What can you say about him when he plays like that?" said Alan Green, who scored the winning goal with 14:44 left in the match. "You think you've seen it all and then he plays like tonight."
Cruyff was still bothered by the bruised left thigh that kept him out of the last two games of Washington's 0-4 road trip. Yet he was nothing short of sensational in the first half when the Dips built a 2-0 lead against a team that had won 21 of 23 games, best record in the league.
Then, when Washington blew its lead early in the second half, it was Cruyff, shouting and cajoling all at once, who held the team together until Green could come up with the game-winner.
"It's a good win certainly," said Coach Gordon Bradley. "But look around the room. We're not surprised. We know what we can do when Johan is fit."
With Cruyff fit enough, the Dips lifted their record to 9-13, good for 90 points for the season and second place in the NASL's National Conference East. The Sounders, losing for the first time since June 11, are now 21-3 for 171 points.
Although players in both locker rooms were still shaking their heads in wonderment over Cruyff's performance 30 minutes after game's end, the man really was not interested in talking about his virtuoso performance.
"The first 20 minutes tonight, we were good," he said. "Nobody was losing the ball. Then when Wim (Jansen) had to go out (hamstring) the whole game changed. With him we are a different team.
"The second half, in the beginning, we did the same things wrong again. But it got better. We worked and Alan made a good play to get the goal."
Green's winner came long after the field had been drenched by a first-half storm, replete with thunder and lightning that made the field virtually unplayable at one point.
The decisive play started with Carmine Marcantonio sending a long pass toward Cruyff. The ball skipped on the wet grass and seemed headed for Seattle defender Ian Bridge.
"I was trying to gauge what he would do," said Green. "I thought he might try to play the ball back to the goalie so I tried to get between them. Instead, the ball hit his leg and bounced towards me."
Green was on the ball in a split second. Goalkeeper Jack Brand, yielding three goals for the second time all season, came out to meet Green but Green yanked the ball wide of him and beat the diving keeper to his left at 75:16. It was Green's 18th goal this year.
"Alan was like a leopard," Bradley remarked.
"I should have just trapped it," Bridge said. "Instead I tried to kick it backwards and I didn't quite control it. I heard Jack yell 'Man on,' and I knew we had a bit of trouble. I just made the wrong decision."
Green's goal saved the Dips from what might have been an embarrassing loss considering Cruyff's brilliance the first nine minutes of the game.
Cruyff's goal opening the scoring was nothing short of fabulous.
Stealing the ball at midfield, he weaved his way through the entire Seattle defense, juking right, faking left and leaving defenders in his wake -- four of them. Finally, as he came into the box, Brand had to come out to meet him. Cruyff made one more fake. Brand dove to his right and Cruyff boomed a 12-yard, left-footed kick into the back of the net at 6:01, his fifth goal of the season.
"One of the great goals I've ever seen," said Bradley. "He just left people behind. He's so quick it's unbelievable. For 10 yards there's still nobody in the world that's quicker."
"Marvelous goal," Seattle Coach Alan Hinton said."What else can you say."
"Best goal I've seen all season," Brand said. "About the only one I remember better was one I saw Cruyff score in Europe."
Cruyff wasn't finished. Three minutes later he stole the ball at the 35-yard line. This time he dribbled into the left wing corner, wanting to pass.
He had two defenders with him as he reached the end line. He stopped short, then spun a pass off his foot that appeared to be going over the goal line. But it spun backward right in front of the net. Waiting was Tony Crescitelli.
"Unreal pass," said Crescitelli, "I had to kind of push the defender away but once I got there the ball was right there. I just hit it. You always have to be ready with Johan, you never know what he'll do. He's the master." h
Crescitelli's fifth goal at 9:02 put the Dips in control, 2-0. It appeared the only question from that point would be survival of the teams in the sauna the stadium had become.
But at the 20-minute mark things began to go wrong. Jansen's hamstring acted up and he had to come out. Then it began to rain. Then it poured. With thunder and lightning bombarding the stadium, the Sounders cut the lead to 2-1 at 42:57 when Bruce Rioch scored on a 22-yard direct free kick. It beat goalie Dragan Radovich to his right.
That gave Seattle impetus. The rain stopped at halftime and the Sounders came out flying. It took them 3:41 to tie the game.
Roger Davies got the equalizer, his 23rd goal of the season, with a flying, diving 15-yard shot. On any other night, Davies' goal would have dominated conversation.
But this was not an ordinary night. This was a night on which the Dips held together when things got tough, a night when Cruyff, with Green's help, refused to let this team fold.
It ended, appropriately enough, with Cruyff dribbling several Seattle defenders in circles as time ran out. A fitting encore after a superb performance that left one phrase on the audience's lips:
Bravo, Cruyff. Bravo.