When the Washington Diplomats face the Dallas Tornado this afternoon at 2:30 at RFK Stadium the Dips will be encountering their second straight opponent in dire need of a victory.
The Dips (5-3) lost to a desperate Tampa Bay team last week and today will face a Tornado squad that has lost its last six games and is in last place in the NASL's Central Division. Dallas goalkeeper Bill Irwin, who started for Washington early last season, has allowed 21 goals so far. Meanwhile, his teammates have scored just six times.
Diplomat Coach Ken Furphy watched the Tornado lose at home, 3-1, to Minnesota Friday night. Furphy watched a Dallas team that has a miserable defense and no offensive punch. But neither did Tampa, which whipped the Dips, 3-1.
The big difference for the Diplomats today should be the return of goalkeeper Jim Brown. He missed last week's game with a severe ankle sprain, but has practiced since Thursday and will start.
"The ankle's a little stiff in the mornings when I wake up," said Brown, "But once I warm up, it feels all right. It won't be 100 percent but it's not my kicking (right) foot. I had a good workout yesterday and the ankle didn't bother me.It's well-wrapped."
Diplomat trainer John Lally said Brown's ankle still was swollen slightly yesterday but is strong enough for the goalkeeper to play the entire game.
If the Tornado offense proves as impotent today as it has been thus far, Brown may fall asleep in the nets. No Dallas player had more than one goal before the Minnesota game.
"They seem to get down, 1-0, every game and struggle the rest of the way," said Diplomat midfielder David Bradford. "We (the Detroit Express) beat them, 5-1, last year and I think it's pretty much the same team. They play a German style more than anything else. Dallas likes to slow the game down, passing the ball back and forth in the midfield. They have one of the slowest setups I've ever seen . . ."
"Hey, don't say that about Dallas," Diplomat striker Paul Cannell interrupted. "People won't come out if they think Dallas is slow and boring. Dallas is the most exciting, powerful, attacking team in the league," Cannell said, tongue in cheek.
Cannell probably will not start, but will be in uniform after fighting off an apparent case of food poisoning earlier this week.
The Diplomats also badly need a victory against Dallas before facing the Cosmos at RFK next week. To win today, they need the consistent midfield play that marked their first six games. Washington's forward line is stronger now that at anytime since the season started. But the Dips must take advantage of their scoring chances, which they failed to do against Tampa last week.