It is rematch time for the Washington Diplomats.
For the second year in a row the Dips will open the playoffs against the Los Angeles Aztecs. The first game will be played in RFK Stadium at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The second game will be played in the Rose Bowl Saturday night. If the teams split, they will play a 30-minute minigame -- not sudden death -- immediately following Saturday's game.
A year ago, the Dips strutted into their match with the Aztecs predicting victory. "I'd bet my year's wages we'll beat them," Paul Cannell said then. vFortunately for Cannell, he couldn't find a bookie.
The Aztecs won the series in two games, 3-1 in Pasadena and 4-3 in overtime in RFK. The difference was Johan Cruyff, then an Aztec. The Dips are hoping Cruyff, now on the other side, will be the difference again this year.
"I expect Johan to play a very significant role in this series," Diplomat Coach Gorden Bradley said yesterday. "This is his old team and his old coach and he had to come off at halftime when we played them earlier this season (a 2-1 overtime loss in Pasadena).
"He always plays a major role in the outcome of a game. I expect it to be even more true in the series."
To win the series the Dips, in addition to winning here, will have to win either a 90-minute game or a 30-minute game in Pasadena.
Seven other best-of-three (including the minigame) series round out the first round schedule.
In the National Conference, the matchups Wednesday night include the second-seeded Seattle Sounders against the Vancouver Whitecaps and the third-seeded Dallas Tornado against the Minnesota Kicks. The following night, the Cosmos, seeded first, will play the Roughnecks at Tulsa.
Game two of each series is next weekend, with the venues changing. The Whitecaps and Sounders will meet Saturday night. The following night, the Kicks will play the Tornado and the Roughnecks will visit the Cosmos to conclude their series.
In the American Conference, Wednesday's series openers match the top-seeded Chicago Sting against the San Diego Sockers, the second-seeded Tampa Bay Rowdies against the New England Tea Men and the Edmonton Drillers against the Houston Hurrican. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers, seeded fourth, will play the California Surf the following night.
Those series also will be concluded next weekend. The Sockers and Sting will play Saturday, as will the Tea Men and Rowdies. The Hurricane and the Drillers will conclude Sunday. The starting time and day of the Surfstrikers windup has yet to be determined because of a possible appearance on network television. Saturday's games will be televised regionally.