The Washington Diplomats are expecting their largest crowd of the season Wednesday at 8 p.m. when they take on the Cosmos at RFK Stadium.
A team spokesman said the club is expecting, weather permitting, "a slightly larger crowd than the last Cosmos game," which attracted 27,676. The record attendance for this franchise is 32,319, set against Fort Lauderdale when the club was still the Detroit Express. Last year, the then-Diplomats drew a Washington record 53,351 when they played the Cosmos.
The Diplomat players spent yesterday recuperating from Sunday's extremely rough game in Chicago, a 2-1 victory that left them 9-6 and trailing the Cosmos by 40 points in the Eastern Division race.
Six starters -- David Bradford, Willi Kiefer, Benny Dargle, Heinz Wirtz, Trevor Hebberd and captain Peter Baralic -- visited the RFK training facilities to receive treatment for injuries. But none is expected to miss Wednesday's game.
Neither Coach Ken Furphy nor his players could offer good reason why the Diplomats play so well against the league's top teams -- the Cosmos, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta -- but have had trouble with weaker teams such as Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Tulsa.
"I have no explanation for it at all," Furphy said.
"Nobody can sustain an unbeatable pace for 32 games," said goalkeeper Jim Brown. "Even the Cosmos had a bad stretch. The key is to come back after two or three losses, and we showed against Chicago that we can do that."
Defender Malcolm Waldron, who Sunday scored his seventh goal, five of them coming on dead balls, on a first-half penalty kick, said the Diplomats "always seem to rise to the occasion. We knew Chicago was a top-notch team and we needed to play better than we have been if we wanted the support of a big crowd Wednesday against the Cosmos."
The Dips and Cosmos split the first two games, and neither team has played especially well the last month, even though the Cosmos lead the league in total points, bonus points and goals scored. The Diplomats thoroughly outplayed the Cosmos in their last meeting, three weeks ago in RFK, and will need a similar performance to keep alive their hopes for a division championship.