The Washington Diplomats, finally playing the soccer they seemed capable of before the start of the season, will try to extend their winning streak to four games when they face the Rochester Lancers today at 2:30 p.m. in RFK Stadium.
The game is a meeting between two teams seemingly going in opposite directions. The Diplomats (11-13) are tied for second place in the NASL National Conference East Division with 106 points. The Lancers (10-13) have lost four in a row and are in last place in the same division.
Historically, however, Rochester has been a tough team for Washington. A year ago the Lancers won in RFK, 3-2, in a shootout. Last month, though, the Dips won only for the second time ever in Rochester, 2-1. That game marked the start of the Lancers' slide from second place in the division.
"They're a dangerous team," Diplomat Coach Gordon Bradley said. "Whatever their record, they have some skilled players up front. They can score goals quickly."
The most dangerous Rochester players are veteran Mike Stojanovic and last year's NASL rookie of the year, Branko Segota. Earlier this season Segota was suspended by the Lancers in a dispute over money and his behavior. s
Those problems have since been resolved and the 20-year-old is back in the lineup. His presence was of little help Friday in Houston, however, when the Lancers were routed by the Hurricane, 6-2.
The Diplomats have suspended no players this season but they have had problems. The last 10 days, though, things have begun to come together.
Johan Cruyff is almost healthy and playing superbly. Wim Jansen is healthy again and, in the sweeper spot, has improved the defense immeasurably. Alan Green, with 19 goals, has been a consistent scorer all season even when the team hasn't played well. Dragan Radovich has played well in goal since taking over six games ago when Bill Irwin was injured.
"It just seems to be finally coming together," said General Manager Andy Dolich. "Everyone is happy right now. Johan is happy with his role. Gordon is happy with the way Johan is playing. Of course the way the game is, we could go out and lose, 6-0, and everyone would start pointing fingers again."
Losing by that score today doesn't seem likely. Even at its worst Washington has been a good team playing at home. Rochester, even at its best, is not a good road team.
"That's when I worry," Bradley said. "Nothing is logical in soccer. If it seems we should win, we can be in trouble. I'd rather have you say it seems we shouldn't win."
The Dips play at home against Tulsa on Wednesday and Toronto on Saturday and need to win all three.
After the home stand they visit Minnesota, Vancouver and Giants Stadium, three places in which they almost never win.