Neither the Washington Diplomats nor the Atlanta Chiefs figured to be awe-inspiring soccer teams this year. But one game into the NASL season, each has boosted its status by taking one of last year's Soccer Bowl finalists, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, into overtime before losing, 2-1, in both
The dips, in their opening game last Saturday, led the Strikers, 1-0, late in the second half before falling in overtime. The Chiefs forced the Strikers into overtime in their season-opener Friday night before losing in the shootout session.
The Dips and the Chiefs, two very young teams, will face each other today at 2:30 at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium.
The Chiefs were one of the league's best indoor teams this season but probably have too many weak spots to be as formidable outdoors.
Like the Diplomats, the Chiefs have several promising players under 22 who need time to mature. Also, the strong point of both teams is goalkeeping. It's difficult to find a single NASL coach or general manager who isn't convinced Diplomat keeper Jimmy Brown isn't one of the three best in the league.
Two Atlanta goalkeepers, both 24, Lou Cioffi and Graham Tutt, will share duties.
Diplomat Coach Ken Furphy was disappointed in his team's inability to hold its one-goal lead against the Strikers last week. Furphy said the team put too much emphasis on protecting its lead instead of attacking when there was an opening.
The Atlanta team will be more familiar to Washington-area soccer fans than the new Dips, who won't play their first home game until April 11 against Montreal. On the Chiefs' roster are two popular former Diplomats: Don Droege and Ken Mokgojoa. And Atlanta's best player is forward Keith Atlanta's best player is forward Keith Furphy, son of the Washington coach, who played for his father at Detroit last year.