"Don't call me a hero; I walked out and made one kick," elated Washington Diplomat reserve forward Bobby Stokes yelled at two teammates. "I've always had pretty good luck in the shootout so I didn't feel nervous about taking that kick."
For Stokes, struggling through what has been his worst season since joining the Dips four years ago, it was a rare moment of glory.re moment of glory. The Briton had no problem outfoxing Cosmos goalkeeper Hubert Birkenmeier to sink his shootout attempt and give the Dips an insurmountable 4-2 edge and 2-1 triumph tonight.
"Remember, I wasn't the only player who made kicks," said Stokes, who has not scored a goal this year. "Fortunately, when he (Larry Hulcer of the Cosmos) missed, it took a lot of pressure off me. It sure felt nice to come in and do something, especially up here against these guys."
Washington had a 3-2 lead in the tie breaker shootout after a miss by Wim Rijsbergen of the Cosmos. Johan Cruyff missed his attempt and was decked by Birkenmeier on the play. Birkenmeier appeared to hit Cruyff just as the Dutch midfielder shot Both players lay on the field several minutes after the collision. $"He never touched the ball, he hit me," said Cruyff, who had the wind knocked out of him and was carried from the field. "I'm not hurt at all. He hit me in the stomach and I fell on the AstroTurf and hurt my back a little. hNo problem, though, I'm fine."
Birkenmeier said Cruyff lefted the "ball a little too far and I decided to go for the ball and he did, too.
"Next . . . we collide," Birkenmeier said. "No penalty, no penalty, no penalty."
Birkenmier bruised a knee slightly on the play.
After Cruyff's miss, reserve midfielder Hulcer was forced to try his first shootout of the year because, according to Cosmos Coach Hennes Weisweiler, "several of my players were hurting, namely Carlos Alberto and Seninho (who defeated the Dips twice in previous shootouts.) Anyway, Hulcer is the best guy on the team in the shootout practices."
"We should have won the game in regulation," Weisweiler said. "It should have never gotten to the shootout."
After Hulcer's miss, the hobbling Birkenmeier went out to face Stokes. The Cosmos goalie said afterward his knee didn't affect his defense but the ball rolled under him into the right side of the net.
"I knew if I made the shot the game was over," said Stokes, who replaced Tony Crescitelli at 62:16. "I have made about six of eight shots in these shootouts but the only try I had this year I missed."
Actually the majority of the Washington players have missed their shootout tries. The team hadn't made one since the opening match against Tampa Bay March 29. In their ensuing three shootout games, including a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Cosmos at RFK June 1, Washington had missed 12 straight.
So, it came as no great surprise that very few players raised their hands to volunteer for the chance to be an instant hero or goat.
"I would have felt lousy if we had lost," Washington Coach Gordon Bradley said. "The first four guys volunteered and when I looked on my lineup card I said, 'Oh, here's Bobby.' He looked at me and said, 'No problem, I'll go.' He a sure-footed player and I had confidence he would make it."
Washington (14-14) felt it should have won in regulation. The Cosmos goal came on a penalty kick by Giorgia Chinalglia after refree George Courtney called a pushing foul on Nick Mijatovic for bowling over Ricky Davis.
"Yes, there was contact and maybe, maybe I should have gotten a yellow card," Mijatovic said. "The ball was heading out (of bounds) and we both went for it. It was hard to stop on the AstroTurf and I tried not to touch him. I didn't think it was a penalty."
Juan Jose Lozano got the equalizer exactly 25 seconds late and the stage was being set for the teams' fourth straight shootout game. The Las Vegas bookies may have taken this game off the board, especially since the Cosmos had whipped the Dips in the previous three overtime sessions and had a 14-0 record at Giants Stadium this year.
"We worked hard all game and we deserved to win," said Dip defender Bob Iarusci, who along with Tommy O'Hara and Alan Green made the other shootout kicks. "When you feel you've been gypped out of a game (June 1), you have to believe that the breaks will even out. It's only justice."