The admittedly overconfident Diplomats, who ruted the Tampa Bay Rowdies in Washington last week, blew several early chances in a rematch tonight and watched complacently as a revamped Rowdie lineup scored three times an 11-minute span and embarrassed the Dips, 3-1.
The Rowdies, traditional powers in the NASL, had become the most disppointing team in the leauge this season by losing four straight games. Several players have been criticized by Coach Gordon Jago, and others -- including starting goalkeeper Winston DuBose -- have been injured.
Only 16,302 (Tampa drew less then 20,000 only twice last season) were in attendance tonight under cloudless skies and 80 degree temperatures. And many booed the home team during pregame introductions.
In desperate need of a victory, the Rowdies played intensely from the opening whistle, hoping to take the early lead against 19-year-old Washington goalkeeper Dale Baxter, who was making his professional debut. Baxter substituted for injured starter Jim Brown, who watched the game on television at home with a severely sprained ankle that he suffered Thursday in practice.
Paul Cannell's first goal of the season, a header past Tampa Kevin Keelan at 88:24, allowed the Dips to avoid being shut out. p
But that was the only opportunity the Dips, converted all evening. "We should have put away those early chances," said striker Ross Jenkins, who was one of four Diplomats to miss good scoring chances in the first half.
"We lost the game in the first 30 minutes," Carr said. "We make one or two of those goals and Tampa is dead and buried."
"If we make those early chances, this game is just like last week's game," said Ivan Belfiore, referring to last Friday's 4-1 Diplomat victory over the Rowdies in RFK Stadium.
But, mostly because of the gritty goalkeeping of Keelan, the Dips didn't capitalize.
In the 12th minute, Jenkins took a pass from captain and former Rowdie Peter Baralic inside the penelty area. But defender Peter Roe, making his first appearance in a Rowdie uniform, forced Jenkins to alter his kicking motion enough for Jenkins to roll the shot wide left.
In the 16th minute, Washington's Benny Dargle had his breakaway shot kicked aside by Keelan.
Three minutes later, David Bradford, after taking a pass from Trevor Hebberd, split the defense but had his hard, open shot stopped by the 40-year-old Keelan. And in the 25th minute, "the Cat" turned away Hebberd's 16-yard shot from in front.
"They seemed to pick up after Keelan made those saves," Belfiore said.
Momentum shifted immediately and the Rowdies forced Baxter to make two quick saves. But the second shot, blocked by Baxter and Carr, rebounded hard out to center forward Neill Roberts, who headed the ball into the net for a 1-0 Rowdie lead before Baxter could react.
The Tampa margin went to 2-0 at 40:39 when Roberts, in and out of Jago's lineup all season, heeled the ball back to Jan Van Der Veen, who ripped a 22-yarder past Baxter. "Being a more experienced goalkeeper, Jimmy might have gotten that second one," Dip Coach Ken Furphy said.
The third goal came 75 seconds into the second half when Wes McLeod scored after the ball bounced around in front of the Washington goal like a pinball.
Traling 3-0, the outshot Tampa, 9-2, in the second half and forced Keelan to make five of his nine saves. But Washington could only produce one score.
"I hope we learned a lesson from this," Furphy said. "If we worked as hard the first half as we did the second half, this might be a different story. In the first half, our midfield just disappeared. It didn't defend well at all. Their midfielders just didn't deserve the space we gave them."
Furphy was also unhappy at what he called "complacency."
"We were overconfident," the coach said. "A bit casual in the first half."
Said Dip defender Malcolm Waldron, "We got what we desereve. Everybody was a bit complacent. Maybe we've been reading our press clippings too much this week. It wasn't conscious, but subconscious. We certainly learned a lesson for it tonight.