The new Washington Diplomats, making their home debut before 12,533 fans in rainy RFK Stadium last night, defeated NASL East opponent Montreal, 1-0, on Malcolm Waldron's free kick early in the second half.
The dips played the last 11 minutes one man short, after midfielder David Brakford was ejected for telling an official, "Hey buddy, you need glasses." He will miss the Dips' next home game, Saturday against Fort Lauderdale.
Waldron's third goal of the season -- a powerful, right-legged smash past Manic goalkeeper Bob Rigby from 24 yards in front -- was the same play that gave the Dips (2-1) their first victory, at Atlanta last week. The game's only score came at 52:06 after Washington's Peter Baralic had been pulled down by Manic defender Bobby Smith in front of Rigby.
The blast deflected off Diplomat forward Angus Moffatt, to the right of a sprawling Rigby, but the score was credited to Waldron.
"Waldron's kicks have such tremendous speed and power," said Coach Ken Furphy. "The one he scored last week (with 38 seconds left), we never even saw it, it was so fast."
After the foal, the Dips stopped attacking and seemed content to protect their lead, a tactic that caused them to lose their season opener to Fort Lauderdale two weeks ago.
Montreal, who lethargic offense produced only one shot the first half, swarmed Washington goalkeeper Jim Brown the last 20 minutes, forcing the Scot to make several sharp saves to insure the Dips' victory.
"When we get up a goal, we tend to sit back too much a let the opposition get on top of us," said Waldron, 24, an English defender who leads the team in scoring with six points. "Instead of keeping up the pressure after taking the one-goal lead, we allowed them to take it to us."
But even playing 11 men to 10, Montreal never came close to scoring. The Diplomat defense, which is supposed to be the weak point of the team, played well most of the night. But the Montreal offense must have been left in Philadelphia where the team played last season.
Though only one goal was scored, the opening night crowd -- half of last year's total -- cheered loud and long for the Dips who outshot the Manic, 15-8, and forced the embattled Rigby to make eight saves.
"The fans were unbelievably loud," Brown said. "At one point, when they started stomping their feet after Waldron's goal, I didn't know if it was thunder or the fans."
The ball was somewhat waterlogged, but it didn't seem heavy when Waldron lined up between Baralic and Bradford to take his kick. "The ball was in the same position as last week against Atlanta, but I didn't hit this one as well. Since the ball was spotted in the middle of the field I knew I would take the kick,"
The strategy that produced the winning goal is a set play that puts these three men on the ball and presents them with five alternatives for attack. Against a five-man Manic defensive wall 10 yards away, Waldron let fly with an ankle high shot with such velocity, the Montreal defenders seemed to flinch.
Moffatt, on contact with the ball, ran between the Manic players trying to open a gap. He succeeded, but got hit in the shin, forcing the ball to change direction slightly on an out-of-position Rigby.
Rigby seemed undaunted by Diplomat striker Paul Cannell, who has had good success against him in the past. Cannell got off the first shot, but was held pretty much in check the rest of the night. He cut his head slightly toward the end of the first half with a collision with Montreal's Radi Martinovic, who was treated for a laceration over the eye at George Washington University Hospital.
Cannell started the second half and was about to receive a pass from Baralic when he was pulled down, forcing the penalty that set up the goal.