Roy Willner 1977

Roy Willner 1977

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Johan Cruyff vs Houston Hurricane

Grateful thanks to Zeine Saidi for sharing this beautiful picture he took at RFK Stadium while attending the Dips-Hurricane match on June 29, 1980!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Camp Gityurkiks

The summer camp season is in full swing. In the '70s, DC area kids could go to soccer camp organized and staffed by the Dips themselves. It must have been incredible to hang out with Paul Cannell as he charmed soccer moms and introduced youthful Yanks to British humor. I never was fortunate enough to attend. My father insisted on Camp Modelawn.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Looking Back and Catching Up With Carmine Marcantonio Part II

Tricks of the Game

"Tricks have always been in the game, like diving or flopping," Marco observes. On April 27, 1980, in a frigid match held in Toronto against the Blizzard, he was the recipient of one of the oldest tricks in all of sports. Jomo Sono of the Blizzard took a shot that Dips goalie Bill Irwin blocked but could not control.

"I got the ball on my foot and thought just to clear it out of the zone," Marcantonio told the press after the game. "But when I heard someone call, 'Marco, Marco' I thought it was (Dips teammate) Nick Mijatovic, so I passed the ball over there. Then I saw what had happened." Calling for the ball was Ivan Lukacevic, a teammate in 1976, but now a member of the opposition, who fired home the only goal of the match.

"He tricked me by using my nickname. It's part of the game. I had no bad feelings about it. We would use every trick in the book to try and win. Professionals are there to win games and if you get tricked it's your fault." An admirable attitude, to say the least!

Time in Washington

Marco, far right, enters the outdoor seating section of the Al-
pine Restaurant, a favorite eatery for many of the Dips and the
Redskins, as well. Second from right is Don Droege. Bob
Iarusci is in the center of the frame.
Two of Marcantonio's favorite activities during those summers in DC were playing golf and relaxing at the Alpine Restaurant in Arlington, Virginia. "It was like a second home for me, my wife, the Iarusci's, Crescitelli's and later for the Bradley's, Cruyff's and other Dips. It made history in the Washington area as the preferred restaurant for initially the Dips, and later the Redskins. It was always full with politicians and dignitaries and the rich & famous of Washington & Northern Virginia."

Marco became so close to the owners that he was asked to be the Godfather of one of their children, Marco Valentini. 

Life Today

Marco & Iarusci celebrate during a match in 1980.
After the original Diplomats folded, he played four more years with the Montreal Manic and the Cosmos. "I retired after the NASL went under and I moved back to Toronto. I have two boys and a girl who are grown and am an insurance broker." Marco stays quite active now that his professional playing days are behind him. "A lot of golf and I play in a 40 and over soccer league Fridays and Sundays."

He is still close with former teammate and fellow Canadian Soccer Hall of Famer Bob Iarusci. "We grew up together since the age of 16 and were teammates from age 17 through the NASL. We both played for the Cosmos after the Dips and were the Best Man at each others wedding."

"I feel I am kind of a pioneer. We made history in terms of how far football has come in the U.S. and Canada," he states about his time in the NASL. Ever the gentleman, he expressed, "to all Dips fans, my love & regards."

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Looking Back & Catching Up With Carmine Marcantonio

Marco in action against the Strikers, April, 1978.
“I wanted to be a professional footballer since the day I was born,” Carmine “Marco” Marcantonio recalls. “I like to say football and not soccer. What is known as football in America is really played with the hands.” The cordial, multilingual (he is fluent in five languages) Canadian Soccer Hall of Famer has always been frank when discussing the game, no matter what dialect he uses. On the eve of the 1980 season, when asked what type of team he would most like to play on, he answered, “one with honest and dedicated players.”

Rookie Year In Toronto

His career in the NASL began in 1976, when he played with the Toronto Metros-Croatia, winners of Soccer Bowl ’76. “It was a dream to win a professional championship.” It was with this team he picked up his nickname because his teammates thought his last name was too long. That season, Marco struck up a friendship with renowned Brazilian midfielder Ivair Ferreira. "In their home country, Pele was known as 'The King' and Ferreira was 'The Prince.' Ferreira was in the prime of his career. He took me under his wing and we became close friends. I was out with him the night I met my wife." A key member of that team was Portuguese great Eusebio, who was voted one of the 10 best footballers of the 20th century. 

Life As a Diplomat

Marco came to the Diplomats on March 6, 1978, when he joined the team for a pre-season tour on the west coast, and was signed soon after. His impact was immediate. The '78 Dips won their first 5 games and scored 11 goals in that span. The previous year the team only won ten games and scored thirty goals over the entire campaign. Just one month into the season, Donald Huff of the Washington Post wrote a feature story on Marco's value and primary contributions in that short period.

"Marcantonio has given the Dips the (midfield) stability and leadership the club hasn't seen in some time." For his part, Marco demonstrated his team-first attitude. "There are two kinds of players out there: those who score and receive all the glory and those who work to get the ball to them so they can score. I'm one of those who works to get the ball to someone."

Perhaps the biggest point of contention for Marcantonio in 1978 came via the equipment room. Rather than sewing his full last name on the back of his jersey, it had been condensed to M - TONIO. "I did not ask for that and really didn't like it. I would have preferred if they used my nickname, Marco. In 1979 and 1980 I asked them to restore my full name, which the team did."

The '78 & '79 Dips were as skilled in the pub as they were on the pitch. Paul Cannell and Jim Steele could party all night and play everyday (sounds like a KISS song). Marco looks back fondly at their zest for life. "Paul would do something crazy all the time. He gave it all he had on the field, 100% effort, along with Jimmy (Steele). Paul was one of the better headers and a very colorful and good teammate."

He pauses for a moment to reflect and then chuckles. "Paul and Steely, you never knew how they were going to show up for practice. With Jimmy, he would go puke in the wash room area in the middle of practice. They are both still very dear in my heart. Both of them were like George Best, lived life to its fullest. They were nice men and teammates." Marco himself was not into the bar scene. "I tried religiously to do the things I thought a professional athlete should right, not overdue nightlife."

1980 Season

After getting knocked out in the first round of the 1979 NASL playoffs, majority owner Sonny Werblin felt the team, "needed a Joe Namath, so he signed Cruyff," Marco states when asked about the 1980 season. "The Dips took on another dimension when they signed Johan. With him we were now major league. It was a pleasure playing with someone of that stature, but I had played with Eusebio, so it was not the first time I had played with a big name player."

Cruyff & Marco, 1980.
The ups, downs and turmoil of Washington soccer that summer have been well documented. Cruyff and Head Coach Gordon Bradley bickered most of the season and the team never realized its full potential.

Marcantonio recalls strife right from the start. "Johan hurt his knee in our first game (in Tampa) and then badly hurt his foot in our second game at Tulsa. It was like going to hell to play in Tulsa because of the narrow field (only 60 yards wide) and being up against the wall on the sideline."

"Johan was playing hurt all throughout the beginning of the season and the expectations were very high." After 10 games, the Dips had a record of 3-7 and seemed to lack any direction or offensive punch. Something had to be done to salvage the season. Marco says that something was a meeting of the minds.

"Bradley did not try to sit down with Johan and pick his brain." In other words, Cruyff felt dissed. "Joe Mallet (assistant coach) was Bradley's mentor, the wise old man. Mallet finally had the two sit down and work out the British system and the Dutch system of 'total soccer.' When we went more with the Cruyff system we went on a run and had a great time." The Dips won six straight, outscoring opponents 22-7 during that span.

Next post, Marco Part II.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mario Luna's Photos From the Dips Tour of Asia, Fall, 1980

The original Diplomats played their final games on the other side of the world, a series of Friendlies in Indonesia, Hong Kong and Japan, in November, 1980. Dips forward Mario Luna was kind enough to share a few of his personal snapshots from that trip.

"With Gary Darrell before a match."

"The beaches of Macao with Thomas Rongen."

"In a street in Hong Kong with Barney Boyce."

Luna in action against the Japanese National Team, November 9, 1980, Fukuoka, Japan.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

John Carbray

John Carbray, April, 1977
It might be strange to think of a franchise that only had a life span of 7 years as having two tenures, but that was the case of the late, great Washington Diplomats. 

During their first three years of existence, the Dips struggled to present an image of a major sports franchise, playing the vast majority of their home games at Woodson Stadium, a high school facility in suburban Virginia. The man who brought the team out of the doldrums of suburbia and placed them on Washington’s biggest athletic stage is John Carbray. His conception of what soccer in the District could be, as opposed to what it had been, galvanized the franchise.
Steve Danzanky, team owner and president, knew he had found someone special in Carbray when searching for a new general manager in the autumn of 1976. “We were at Woodson (High School) and looking to move to the next step. Phil Woosnam (NASL Commissioner) told me about a guy in San Jose who was turning NASL soccer into a happening.” That guy was John Carbray, who was the GM for the San Jose Earthquakes. "We called John, he came to DC and I introduced him to some of the board members." The team interviewed more than 15 candidates during the search process. "John had a vision that if you play in a small-time venue, you give the appearance of being small-time."
Carbray left a career in
baseball for the NASL.

Team management was instantly sold on Carbray's vision. "I got the best and I'm tickled to death about it," Danzansky told the Washington Post at the time. "He (Carbray) is a pro and he believes in making sports events a fun bargain for people." Carbray, who had turned down offers from five other NASL clubs and one from the San Francisco Giants in order to transform the Dips, was equally sold on his new employers. "I decided to go with an ownership that realizes it takes talent, a good stadium and solid ownership to make a professional sport franchise really take off."

Carbray officially took the reins on Monday, October 3, 1977, and immediately set out to change the franchise's image. On December 22, the team announced it would play all home games at RFK Stadium, leaving their old humble abode in Northern Virginia. "Whatever city you're in, you've got to play in the best facility available to be truly in the major leagues," Carbray said. "It's very hard to project the image of a major league team if people ask where you play and you say at a high school." On the same day Steve Danzansky announced the team's first TV deal, in which five road games would be televised on WTTG, now known as Fox 5 Washington. A radio deal was completed with WTOP, 1500 AM, to broadcast all games.

Carbray designed the classic Dips jerseys, perhaps the team's most enduring legacy.
Aesthetically, Carbray personally redesigned the Diplomats conservative uniforms and primary color scheme from navy blue and white to a flashy red, white and black coupled with a new logo. Collaborating with Angelo Anastasio, an Adidas representative from Los Angeles, several different versions were created and scrutinized. Carbray wanted to honor Adidas and their relationship with the NASL, thus the tri-stripes across the chest and trefoil logo dotting the letter I. 

In February of 1977, Carbray officially changed the emphasis of the team name from Diplomats to Dips. The local press used the circumstance as fodder whenever they could, but it caught on instantly with fans. "It's easier to yell, 'Go Dips' as opposed to 'Go Diplomats'," Carbray reasoned.

Carbray combined an innovative sports mind with a P.T. Barnumesque flair to make the summer of 1977 the most attended season in franchise history at the time. In an era when it was unheard of for a professional sports team to televise home games, the Dips GM did just that. John Feinstein described Carbray's local broadcast of the Dips vs San Jose Earthquakes game at RFK Stadium "a major departure from professional sports tradition." This idea was the forerunner of the Comcast and MASN type networks that thrive today. 

The 1977 Dips lacked rhythm and consistency on offense. They were shutout eight times and scored a modest 31 goals in 26 games. Heading into a July 4 match against the Rochester Lancers, the team had lost seven of their last eight games, during which they only found the back of the net five times. With his genius for showmanship, Carbray turned the evening into part soccer, part exorcism (see right). How much supernatural help the team received is unknown, but the Dips won, 1-0.

Carbray continued to remold the franchise during the off-season prior to the 1978 campaign. His most important decision was hiring Gordon Bradley, who would lead the team to the playoffs each year while he was in DC, as the new head coach. The two would build the '78 roster into one that was respected league wide. Additionally, Carbray again demonstrated his creativity in promoting and enhancing the soccer experience for Diplomats fans. He implemented a multicolored field to augment the games visual appeal, painting the penalty area red, the goal box black and a ball at midfield. "When you walked into the stadium, it just looked fun already," Carbray's wife Diane recalls.

The field at RFK: The picture at left shows the pitch before Carbray's innovative and colorful modifications.

Musically speaking, the summer of 1978 in America belonged to Andy Gibb's Shadow Dancing and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. In Dips country, however, it was a Carbray tune that ruled the airwaves. Elliott Dannenberg's ad agency created, at Carbray's behest, a jingle that was heard on local radio ads and Dips games as the team took the field, Get Your Kicks With the Dips

The franchise continued its ascent under Carbray during the 1979 season. The addition of Don Droege, Joe Horvath, Bob Iarusci and the return of Alan Green, who remained in England during the 1978 season, helped the Dips achieve a club best 19-9 record. In just three years Carbray transformed the Dips from an afterthought on the DC sports scene to a NASL contender and source of pride and entertainment for tens of thousands in the national capital area.

The relationship between Carbray and the Danzansky family was instrumental in this transformation. Joseph Danzansky, father of team president Steve Danzansky, took Carbray "under his wing," without intruding on his role as GM. In turn, Carbray "respected how the Danzansky's were, and still are, giants in the community." Steve Danzansky describes Carbray as, "a great guy with a big heart. I have nothing but respect and admiration for John and his family."

Grateful thanks to the Carbray family and 
Steve Danzansky for their help with this piece.