Up here, where there are few signs of spring and the temperature is still hovering around the freezing point, Toronto Blizzard soccer is at zero.
After four games, the Blizzard has no victories and only four points. the team trails the Eastern Division-leading Cosmos by 24 points and the second-place Washington Diplomats by 20. Toronto has allowed twice as many goals as it has scored. Local soccer purists are hoping a blizzard will come through and blow this team out of town.
To make matters worse -- if that's possible -- the Blizzard may be without three starters when it faces the surging Dips (3-1) here Sunday afternoon at 3 at Exhibition Stadium.
Because Toronto has had so many problems, Diplomat Coach Ken Furphy says Sunday's contest is "a crisis game for the Blizzard. I would bet they've had serious talks with their players this week. There is tremendous pressure for them to do well. It'll be one of those games for them."
The Dips, by contrast, say they don't feel any pressure. They practiced with hardly any distractions this week on an artificial field at Georgetown in preparation for their first game on the carpet in Exhibition.
"I feel fairly confident against Toronto," said Furphy. "I've seen them once this year -- at Tampa Bay. And Eddie (Assistant Coach Colquhoun) watched them play Dallas."
The Dips should win if they play as selflessly as they have the last three weeks in victories over Atlanta, Montreal and Fort Lauderdale. But to run their record to 4-1, they will have to contain the only superstar on the field -- Jomo Sono, the chunky South African midfielder who is capable of taking over a game by himself.
Sono will likely be marked by Diplomat defender Benny Dargle, whose defensive play last week against Teofilo Cubillas was largely responsible for the Dips' 1-0 victory over Fort Lauderdale.
With Sono, the team's leading scorer last season, at midfield with the talented Randy Ragan, Toronto's strength has been across the middle. But Ragan, 21, is on crutches after twisting an ankle in a collision with a teammate in practice this week.
His absence should enable the Dips' David Bradford to control midfield as he has in each of the team's three victories. Defenders Gungor Tekin and Luigi Martini also are injured, and Toronto Coach Keith Eddy isn't sure whether either will be available Sunday.
The Dips are 100 percent healthy. Furphy hopes the forwards can score a goal or two. Paul Cannell and Ross Jenkins have yet to score. But part of the Dip success must be attributed to getting goals from the least likely sources.
Of the team's six goals, three have been scored by defender Malcolm Waldron; two of those on free kicks. One has been scored by goalkeeper Jim Brown, and another by midfielder David McGill.