There were no cries of "Bring on the Cosmos" in the Washington Diplomats' locker room after Friday night's 4-1 victory over Tampa Bay at RFK Stadium.
In winning five straight games since a season-opening road defeat, the Diplomats have grown accustomed to success. Some players even looked upon the Tampa Bay game as a mere preliminary for Sunday's main event with the NASL champion Cosmos in Giants Stadium here at 2:30 p.m.
Asked why his team wasn't celebrating over taking a 5-1 record into the game, Diplomat forward Trevor Hebberd said, "Maybe it was the way we won tonight. It wasn't a come-from-behind victory or anything. Just a normal win."
The Washington players had kept silent on the subject of the Cosmos all week, for fear of being accused of overlooking Tampa Bay. But Coach Ken Furphy admitted Friday night, "I've been thinking about the Cosmos all week."
The first-place Cosmos (5-1) lead the Dips by only four points in the Eastern Division. They have won four straight, but in a totally different fashion. The veteran Cosmos have seemed bored in their early season games. They have carried teams for as long as 70 minutes before beating them with a sudden burst.
Witness last Sunday's game here against Tampa Bay. The Cosmos trailed, 1-0, with only 20 minutes remaining. The Dips, watching the scoreboard in Toronto, thought they were headed for first place. But the Cosmos scored four goals and defeated the Rowdies, 4-1.
The Cosmos did virtually the same thing Friday night in Atlanta, falling behind, 1-0, before prevailing, 3-2.
By Cosmos, the Diplomats have been starting quickly. They have led, 1-0, in every game. They have led, 1-0, in every game. They are no match for the Cosmos in talent -- even though Furphy says they are close -- and will have to outwork the Cosmos to compensate.
Asked to compare the two, Tampa Bay Coach Gordon Jago said the Diplomats are "a much stronger, more physical team. They have very strong runners and they don't give you any room. They're hard workers . . . very hard workers."
Many of the newer Diplomats haven't been in the United States for more than a month. Therefore, they aren't in awe of the Cosmos. Just about all the Dips believe they can win. Peter Carr, who played flawless defense against the Rowdies, says the Cosmos should beware, not the Dips.
But Washington will need a major effort to defeat the defending NASL champions on the artificial turf of Giants Stadium, where they are almost invincible.
Somebody must mark Georgio Chinaglia, the Cosmos' leading scorer. Carr may draw that assignment. There even has been talk that Washington's 35-year-old assistant coach, Eddie Colquhoun, will make a rare field appearance. He is a fierce competitor, even in practice, who some say is still the most physical player on the team.
But as Furphy has pointed out, the Cosmos have other weapons. Seninho, the 31-year-old Portuguese forward, scored two goals against Atlanta and two last week against Tampa Bay.
The Diplomat midfield, while relatively unrecognized, is as strong as the Cosmos' middle line, with Peter Baralic, David Bradford, Heinz Wirtz and David McGill. The goalkeepers -- Washington's Jimmy Brown and the Cosmos' Hubert Birkenmeier -- are both having excellent seasons.
If the Cosmos continue their trend of falling behind, yawning through the much of the first half, waiting for the explosive, crowd-pleasing finish, the calm, confident Diplomats believe they can leave East Rutherford with their winning streak intact.