The Washington Diplomats, who played perhaps their worst game of the soccer season on Saturday and have lost five of their last six games, are frantically searching for a solution to their goal-scoring drought before tonight's 8 o'clock game with Jacksonville at RFK Stadium.
The Dips have failed on at least 15 excellent scoring opportunities in their last four games.
"We're working as hard -- probably harder -- on trying to score the first goal, and we've been creating the chances," said Diplomat sweeper Malcolm Waldron. "but we're just not sticking the ball in the net. There's nothing more we can work on. We just haven't finished off the plays. Maybe we just need a little luck more than anything."
Actually, the Dips need a finisher more than anything; a player who can take a nicely played ball and score with it consistently. Newly acquired Johan Cruyff, who will arrive at Dulles Airport Sunday at 5 p.m., is expected to fill that role. But the Dutchman won't play until July 1.
"Hopefully, Johan will give us that little extra class," Waldron said. "That little extra at the start of the game. We needed that (Saturday) in Montreal. That first goal gives the whole team a lot of confidence."
Waldron, the Dips' leading scorer with eight goals, has been one of the team's few sources of confidence the last few weeks. But the Dips cannot succeed if they depend on a defender to save them with blistering free kicks and penalty shots.
"That's why we'll have to go back and concentrate harder on defense (tonight)," Coach Ken Furphy said yesterday. "If things are not going well offensively, you can always return to defense. If we can't score, at least we'll keep the opposition from scoring."
A tireless, aggressive defense was chiefly responsible for the Dips' 8-3 start. Then the team decided to bolster its offense by allowing the usually cautious midfielders and defensemen to attack more. The strategy worked up to a point. But when the Dips missed their scoring chances, opposing teams found Washington vulnerable to counterattacks.
"Every general who's ever lost a battle has done so by moving too many of his troops too far forward," Furphy said. "We don't plan to let that happen another game."
The coach doesn't announce his starting lineup until the morning of the game. But he said Ole Mikkelsen probably will start at forward. With David McGill serving a one-game suspension and Ken Murphy out 4-6 weeks with torn knee ligaments, Furphy needs Mikkelsen as his third North American in the starting lineup.
The Diplomat director of sales/promotions, Kevin O'Connell, has informed the club he is leaving next month to become assistant athletic director at North Carolina State. The club has not named a replacement.