Johnny Carson would put it this way: How good were the Washington Diplomats last night?
They were so good, Johan Cruyff was seen smiling in the locker room.
Looking more like choreographed dancers than a soccer team trying to reach .500, the Diplomats blew the Tulsa Roughnecks out of RFK Stadium by a 5-1 score that only partially reflected their dominance.
With 14,148 fans watching, Cruyff, Alan Green and company put on a show that had the visitors panting for mercy by the end of the 90 minutes.
"Cruyff," exclaimed Tulsa goalkeeper Gene DuChateau, shaking his head. "You just can't do things he does out there."
Johan the Magnificent scored the key goal. And, as he has frequently done of late, he scored it in spectacular fashion.
The teams had traded goals in the early going. Washington scored when Tulsa defender Johannes Edvaldsson accidentally deflected Tony Crescitelli's header into the net at 21:23. Tulsa answered with a 12-yeard Billy Caskey bullet 2:18 later.
The Dips got a break at 26:55 when David Robb, 33 for 64 on penalty kicks in his NASL career, shot the ball wide to the left on a penalty kick that was awarded after Tommy O'Hara took him down in the penalty box. The Robb miss seemed to give justice its due; it appeared that Robb had taken a clever dive that fooled referee John Carpenter.
Thus, it was still 1-1 when Cruyff went into his act. Playing possum with Tulsa defender Kevin Eagan, he suddenly shot forward and stole the ball. Still 40 yeards from the net, he cut around one, two, then three defenders and into the right corner of the penalty box.DuChateau came out to meet him -- to late. Cruyff blasted a 12-yard shot past him for his seventh goal of the season at 32:88.
"The defender made a mistake," said Cruyff. "I got the ball and I saw Tony (Crescitelli) and Alan (Green) running up on the left. I used them as decoys. If the defenders had come to me, I would have passed. They were worried about them so I went past on the right and shot."
Sounds simple. Actually, Cruyff made the entire game look simple.Time and again he put passes on his teammates' feet, baffling the Tulsa defense.
"Everyone is running now, people are creating space," Cruyff said. "We weren't doing that before. We're working now as a unit. People aren't trying to create individually, they're looking for one another."
Washington's third goal was a good example of the team playing as a unit. The play started with Wim Jansen, superb as sweeper the last three weeks, threading a perfect pass through the middle to Thomas Rongen.
Rongen, whose aggresive play has contributed to the team's five-game winning streak, took the ball at the head of the box and appeared ready to take a shot.
Instead, he faked the shot and sent a back-of-the-foot pass to Green, who had cut in behind the play. In one fluid motion, Green faked DuChateau and put a 15-yard shot into the left corner of the net.
"We're really playing together now," said Green, who now has 22 goals.
"It's like each guy knows what the other one is going to do before he does it. It's a good feeling. We're kind of rolling. Now, if we can take this show on the road, we'll be all right."
The Dips have won five in a row -- seven in a row at home -- and have reached the .500 mark for the first time since May 4. They are 13-3 with 124 points. Tulsa is 12-14 with 109.
The most subdued man in the Dips' locker room was Coach Gordon Bradley.
Through the dark days of the spring Bradley had promised his team would turn around. Now that it has, the coach doesn't want people getting too excited.
"We can still play 30 to 40 percent better," he said. "I'd like to see us a little more consistent at the back (defense) and not have the occasional letdowns we're still having.
"But," he added with a smile, "the goals tonight really were nice to watch."
Washington's fourth and fifth goals would make anyone's highlight film. No. 4 was started by Cruyff, who sent Green down the left side with a pinpoint pass. Green did an imitation of Cruyff, faking two Tulsa defenders, then cutting into the box on the left side. His shot beat DuChateau, but might have gone wide had Crescitelli not shot in to kick the ball home from point-blank range for his ninth goal in 12 games as a starter.
The fifth goals was the capper, a Cruyff-Green masterpiece.
Cruyff gained control at midfield and he and Green took off together, Cruyff slowed, as if about to make a move, then shot a pass between the defenders to Green, like Magic Johnson feeding Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the break. Green made DuChateau look bad with his fake before scoring at 86:32.
"Johan could have had about six assists tonight," said Green. "There's really no telling how good this team can be."
Cruyff (one goal, two assists) joked with Crescitelli about the youngster losing credit for the first goal. "Don't feel bad," he said. "That cost me an assist."
He was laughing. He was still saying, "We can do better, it's a long way from perfect, we still have to work hard," but he was laughing. He was happy.
That's how good the Diplomats were last night.