Johan Cruyff, the Washington Diplomats' prize possession, arrives today and not a moment too soon to help a team that has lost three consecutive games and six of its last seven.
Cruyff, who deplanes at Dulles today at 3 p.m., will dress for the Dips' Wednesday night game at RFK against the San Diego Sockers, but is expected to see limited action at best. He is reportedly not completely healed from a recent groin operation.
"He will be on the bench and may see some action," said Diplomat Coach Ken Furphy. "We're not exactly certain what his physical condition is. If we rush him into playing, the odds are that he might extend the injury. We would rather get into the playoffs and have him 100 percent than to rush him into action."
Cruyff, who became a NASL free agent after playing for last year's Diplomats (since disbanded) and recently finished a season with Levante of the Spanish second division, is likely to start Saturday's game against Seattle at RFK. That game has been moved up from 7:30 to 5 p.m. to ease a possible traffic snarl caused by July 4 fireworks celebration on the Mall later that evening.
The Diplomats are in second place in the East Division of the NASL with a 9-9 record, but have gone flat after a surprising 8-3 start. The team's offense has been frustrated. Of the four goals scored in the last five games, only one has been during actual game action; the other three have been via penalty kicks.
In hopes of adding more punch, Furphy will replace forward Paul Cannell with Ross Jenkins, the team's second-leading scorer with 14 points. Right wing Don Nardiello will start in place of defensive midfielder Heinz Wirtz and Trevor Hebberd will play less of a midfielder position and more of a forward slot. David McGill, back from a one-game suspension after being assessed 20 yellow-card points, will return to his usual left back position.