When comparing the teams' rosters, it would appear the Diplomats don't have a chance against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the 1980 Soccer Bowl finalist, in tonight's 7:30 rematch at RFK Stadium.
The Strikers, at 3-0, have the best record in the NASL. They are considered one of the two most talented teams in the league -- the Cosmos are the other -- with such starters as Teofilo Cubillas, Gerd Mueller, Ray Hudson and Elias Figueroa.
The Dips, on the other hand, don't have any player who could be called a superstar. In three well-played contests this year, they have relied on selflessness and hard work. In Washington's only defeat, the Dips led Fort Lauderdale, 1-0, late in the game. Perhaps a little surprised at their success, they tried to sit on the lead and lost, 2-1, in overtime.
This new Diplomat team, unheralded, untested and marginally talented, has been criticized for not being as flamboyant and exciting as the star-studded 1980 Dips, led by the incomparable Johan Cruyff.
Perhaps. But this bunch may be a better team than the old Dips were.
"This new team doesn't have the international style of the old team," Terry Hanson, vice president of the Atlanta Chiefs, said recently. "They don't have any Johans, any Juan Jose Lozanos, Wim Jansens or Bob Iaruscis. But they may be a better team. Team is the key word."
Last year's Dips, built with the dollars of Gulf and Western, was superior in talent. But even with all those world-class players, they were only 17-15 and needed a late-season surge to finish above .500.
"I thought Cruyff was the greatest player in the world," said Jim McLoughlin, 24, a defender who played against Cruyff last season with Rochester, and has practiced with the Dips for the last two weeks.
"And with him, the old Dips were extremely exciting to watch and play against. But this is a better team," McLoughlin said. "They have a blend that last year's team never had. They work hard and work together. I'm not sure if that could be said of last year's team."
Of the 17 roster players, only one -- captain Peter Baralic from Yugoslavia -- is from a non-English speaking country. That is one factor in the Diplomats' early success.
"When you have too many players from different countries, problems can arise, especially in communicating," Ken Furphy, the team's English coach, said yesterday."With three or four from one place and three or four from another, you tend to have little groups that throw arrows at one another.
"I remember at the end of last season we took a trip to Guatemala. We had three or four Yugoslavian players. And they all sat together, ate together and talked together. They never mixed with the other players. It would have been the same if they were West Germans, Spaniards, Brazilians or whatever. Basically, we are an English team."
Fort Lauderdale, by contrast, has a multinational mix. Cubillas, the attacking midfielder hwo has scored four goals, is from Peru. Stalking striker Mueller is from West Germany.Forward Hudson is from England. Forward Ruben Morales is from Uruguay. And that's only the front line.
For the Dips to win tonight, Furphy said, they will have to contain Cubillas, who scored both goals in the Strikers' victory over Washington three weeks ago.
Furphy also needs scoring from his front line, which has not registered a goal yet. The only two real forwards, Paul Cannell and Ross Jenkins, are good in the air, but don't have a solid ground player to complement them up front.
General Manager Duncan Hill said the Dips expect to import a good West German left winger early next week. "I'd rather not disclose his name because we've had problems acquiring international players before, with visa problems and all," he said. "With foreign players you aren't sure you have him until he shows up. We thought he'd be here in time for the game (tonight)." But the West German apparently had visa problems and the embassies had closed for Easter.
For now, Furphy has had to settle for two-a-day drills, devoting most of his attention to the forwards. "We worked with them for three hours yesterday," Furphy said."They have to start scoring. Trevor Ebberd (who sometimes plays up front) scored, but it came when he was at midfield. The forwards are due."
Besides Hebberd, the Dips' goals have come from defender Malcolm Waldron (three goals, two on direct free kicks) and goalkeeper Jim Brown.
Furphy still hasn't decided on tonight's starting lineup. He said he would like to start Ivan Belfiore at left back and return David McGill to his regular midfield spot. But Belfiore isn't fully recovered from a pulled hamstring.
The Dips and WTTG-TV-5 have signed a six-game television package. Jim Forney will call the play by play and team owner Jimmy Hill, called the "Howard Cosell of England," will provide the commentary. The games televised will be: May 9 at Tampa Bay (7:30), June 14 at Chicago (2:30), June 20 at Montreal (2), July 11 at California (delayed one hour, 11:30), Aug. 2 at Toronto (3), Aug. 12 at Cosmos (delayed two hours,