The new Washington Diplomats, with an easy 4-2 victory over Toronto this afternoon, reached a height the old, star-studded Dips never could attain last season. The new Dips moved three games above .500 with their fourth straight triumph, over the winless Blizzard in Exhibition Stadium.
The Dips (4-1) scored three first-half goals, the first only five minutes into the game, and dominated play for 80 minutes. Toronto threw everything it had at the Dips the last 10 minutes, scoring its second goal and hitting the goal post in another attempt.
But the outcome had been decided. "We just wanted to give the fans a little excitement," Diplomat goalkeeper Jimmy Brown quipped.
One year ago today, the talented Diplomats led by the incomparable Johan Cruyff were shut out here, 1-0, by the Blizzard. After that game Cruyff blamed several of his teammates for poor play, and dissension became a mark of the 1980 Dips for the rest of the season.
After today's victory, every Diplomat was a hero.
"We played extremely well today," Washington Coach Ken Furphy said. "I was pleased with the game plan. We got a little ragged toward the end, but I'm not going to complain about a few minutes after we controlled play for the first 80. Let them have their 10 minutes."
Washington established superiority at 4:48 when Trevor Hebberd scored his second goal of the season on a 30-yard kick that sailed under the cross-bar and over the head of Blizzard goalkeeper Tony Chursky. It was the first goal scored by a Diplomat forward this season and gave them a 1-0 lead (Hebberd's other goal came when he was playing midfield).
Hebberd and Ross Jenkins started at forward, and popular striker Paul Cannell did not play at all. Afterward, Furphy said he would alter his starting lineup according to the opposition and benching Cannell for today was in no way significant.
Only 10 minutes after Hebberd's goal, midfielder Heinz Wirtz scored his first NASL goal, making it 2-0, Washington. Wirtz, who just came over from West Germany on Thursday, took a pass that was threaded between two Toronoto defenders by David Bradford and put the ball past Chursky from 15 yards in front.
The Blizzard cut their deficit to 2-1 at 32:51 when forward Jimmy Greenhoff took a crossing ball from Cliff Calvert and bounced a header past Brown.
Brown, visibly angered by the first score against him in three games, lofted an 80-yard punt downfield to Jenkins, who controlled the ball with his chest then right-footed a kick past Chursky.
The Dips upped their margin to 4-1 at 63:35 when midfielder Peter Baralic ripped a kick into the net after winding his way into the penalty. area around three Toronto defenders.
It was his fifth goal in the last four games against Toronto. "I love this team," he said with a smile. "Can we play them tomorrow?"
At that point, only the final score was in doubt.
Toronto came at the Dips with everything they had the last 10 minutes, nearly catching Washington when Gordon Wallace scored to make it 4-2. He missed another goal 30 seconds later when his shot beat Brown but hit the post.
The Dips, who were probably bored to death by this time, decided to clear the ball at every opportunity to preserve their fourth victory.
At the time, it looked as if they would take over first place from the Cosmos, who were trailing Tampa Bay, 1-0, with only 25 minutes to play in East Rutherford. But the Cosmos scored four goals to win, 4-1, and hold on to first place in the Eastern Division. Both teams picked up the full nine points (six for the victory, and three for scoring three or more goals) and the Cosmos still lead the second-place Dips by four points.
The Dips didn't get of to a good start in Canada. The Hotel Toronto, where the team is staying, caught fire early this morning and some of the guests were evacuated from the 22nd floor, where the blaze started. But none of the team was on that floor.
Later in the morning General Manager Duncan Hill, arriving from Washington, did not realize he had forgotten his passport until he had reached Toronto International Airport. He pleaded and bargained with customs officials until they let him in on bond until the end of the day.
"I've been in America for awhile and I forgot I was British and I needed a passport," Hill said. After the game he was scurrying to find a ride to the airport to catch his 7:30 flight back to Washington. "If I don't make it the immigration officials will keep me here," Hill said on the run. "If I don't make it you'll vouch for me, won't you."