The Washington Diplomats won their first game as a new franchise with the help of a rare goal scored by their goalie, defeating the Atlanta Chiefs, 3-2, today before a home-opener crowd of 7,194.
With 26 seconds left in the game, Diplomat defender Malcolm Waldron scored on a free kick to give the Dips the victory. Center back Don Droege, who played with the original Diplomats, was called for pushing Trevor Hebberd, the new English-midfielder, about a yeard outside the penalty area. Waldron's shot hit inside the top upper post past goalkeeper Graham Tutt.
"The game ebbed and flowed a bit," said Ken Furphy, the Diplomat coach. "Now and then there were some good plays, but there were just as many sloppy plays. We've got a lot of new players and it takes a while for them to play as sweetly as I would like."
"It was a disgraceful performance to lose like that," said Atlanta Coach David Chadwick. "It was a game of errors. I saw shades of last year and it frightened me."
It was a game that at times was very uncoordinated, very strange and very boring."It was like a Sunday league game, like two amateur teams playing," said Atlanta's Paul Child, whose second-half goal was surely the tactical highlight of the afternoon. "It was a very weird game. The ball was going boom, up in the air from one end to the other."
The oddest -- and perhaps most pivotal -- event came with the score tied at 1-1 about midway through the second half. Washington goalkeeper Jim Brown punted the ball to the top of the opposing penalty area, where it bounded over Tutt's head.
Tutt tried to move backwards and fell, and the ball dropped into the goal.
"The lads were telling me the wind was at my back and hit it higher," said Brown, the most valuable player of last year's Detroit team, which moved to Washington in February. "It must have hit a hard part of the ground and went over his head. I was quite excited about it. But I was waiting to hear if the referee would call it a goal. I didn't want to get too excited because I know the goalkeeper must have felt pretty bad."
Neither the Diplomats nor the Chiefs, both coming into the game with overtime losses to Fort Lauderdale, looked very sharp in the first half. It was a mishmash of misdirected passes and loose dribbling that hindered any buildups from the back.
At times, the goalkeepers appeared to be playing catch with each other. "It was like watching a tennis match," Chadwick said.
But the Dips (1-1) got a 1-0 lead when Ross Jenkins passed back from the Chiefs' end line to Hebberd. Given space to shoot by Sweeper Tony Whelan, Hebberd knocked the ball past Tutt is the far right post at 24:10.
The Chiefs got the equalizer early in the second half on a header by Webster Lichaba, who beat Brown at his near post. The Diplomats had failed to clear the loose ball in the air after Lichaba's first attempt.
In the ensuring 20 minutes, the Dips had several opportunities to score. Jenkins had one hard shot deflected over the goal by Tutt, and midfielders David Bradford and Peter Baralic were stopped several times by the crossbar, the right post and Tutt.
Then, unintentionally, Brown put the Dips up, 2-1. Several minutes later, he saved a penalty shot by Keith Furphy, the son of the Dips' coach.