The Washington Diplomats frittered away early chances and watched the Montreal Manic take control for a 2-0 victory in a North American Soccer League game at Olympic Stadium today.
"We had three clear chances to score early and we didn't," said Diplomat Coach Ken Furphy. "You can't miss those and expect to win. After that, we just couldn't raise our gallop."
The game was in marked contrast to the April 11 game between these teams in Washington (Montreal's opener), won, 1-0, by the Diplomats in the rain. That game was characterized by rough play and poor passing, giving some indication that today's contest might be a grudge affair. Instead, the game featured strong midfield play punctuated by several fine individual efforts.
Washington dominated the first 15 minutes, swarming toward the Manic goal area. At the five-minute mark, Diplomat defender Benny Dargle dribbled inside the box unmolested and put a shot just over the crossbar with goalie Bob Rigby beaten. Six minutes later forward Ross Jenkins had Washington's best opportunity of the game, a clear shot deflected by Rigby off the crossbar. After that, Washington's attack withered and Montreal came on with confidence.
The winning goal was scored at 29:32 by Gordon Alec Hill and set up by a brilliant play by Thompson Usiyan. The first year Nigerian player dribbled neatly the length of the right sideline, maintaining his balance following two attempted tackles. As two Washington defenders came toward him, Usiyan spotted Hill in the open and kicked an arching goalmouth pass. Hill had only to trap the ball and kick it into the corner of the net. It was Hill's ninth goal of the season and tied the former British Queen's Park Ranger for fourth in league scoring.
The lead secured, Montreal dominated the second half, outshooting Washington, 9-2. Usiyan scored the second goal at 75:37 on a passing play that involved six Montrealers, with assists finally going to former Diplomat Sonny Askew, who played one of his two best games of the season as a Manic, and defender Andy Lynch.
"It seemed like they had a lot of room out there when they got their chances," said Dip goalie Jim Brown, a harassed man during the second half. "We played it tight most of the way, but when they got the opportunities they seemed to be wide open."
Brown also mentioned the enthusiastic crowd reaction for the fledgling Montreal team, which has become one of the strongest franchises in the league in its first year. Attendance was 23,664 and Montreal has averaged 21,407.