When the Washington Diplomats take the field at RFK Stadium tonight at 6 to play the Honduran national team in the final game of the Ambassador Cup soccer tournament, they will have a two-fold objective.
Their obvious, immediate goal will be a victory over Honduras and the tournament championship. Their other goal will be preparation for Club Espana's appearance in the U.S. Soccer Federation's national cup final, which will be held in two weeks in St. Louis.
"Club Espana has depended on 14 players so far this year," player/assistant coach Ian Bain said, "and we'll have to go with the people who have gotten this far when we go to St. Louis."
Club Espana? That's amateurs. This is the pros. Right? Well, yes and no.
Yes, many members of highly successful Club Espana -- winners of the 1985 USSF national amateur cup tournament -- are also members of the Diplomats.
No, a number of Diplomats players are not eligible to play for Club Espana. Forward Michael Brady, a graduate of American University, played for the MISL's Baltimore Blast. Forward Philip Gyau, a Howard graduate, and defender Rob Ryerson, a native of Colombia, were not included on the roster Club Espana filed with the USSF last March.
The problem is that the Diplomats were a better team once Brady, Gyau and Ryerson entered in the second half of their 3-1 victory over the U.S. under-20 national team Friday night.
The Diplomats reversed the U.S. team's considerable territorial advantage and generated three times as many shots in the second half as they did in the first. Brady had as many shots in the second half as the entire Diplomats team had in the first (four). And Gyau and Ryerson teamed up for the Diplomats' game-clinching goal.
"We wanted to give them a chance to play," Bain said. "And we wanted to give the people a chance to see them play. Still, we will probably go the same way, in terms of playing time, as we did on Friday."
No matter how they go tonight, the Diplomats will need to improve upon their Friday night effort if they are to defeat Honduras, which looked inspired in the early part of its victory over the Cosmopolitan Eagles. The Eagles will play the U.S. team in today's first game, starting at 4 p.m.
"This is a full-fledged national team," Bain said. "We will have to play much better if we hope to beat them."