Darts Win Game, Lose NASL Title

Don Dunn
Date Published: 
Cumberland Evening Times

WASHINGTON—"It was another version of that old story. They won the battle but lost the war," sighed LaVale soccer follower David Fix after watching the Darts top the Rochester Lancers 3-1 yesterday in the second match of the North American Soccer League playoff series at Catholic University. "The result of this win show the difference between world-style playoffs and an American best-of-three series.

"Since Rochester took the first match last week on a field with a 3-0 score and the playoffs are decided on a total goal count, the Lancers win the NASL championship 4-3 on the split of the series. It's actually something of a shame, because the Washington Darts have shown over the season that they were the best, and an off-game put the championship in the New York team's offices."

With the total-goal method of deciding the champ, Rochester needed only hold the Darts to a victory of three or less goals' difference, and the Lancers did just that, coming out of a loss with a victory.

If the Darts could view one of the visitors as a villian, it would have to be Raul Herrera, who booted an unassisted goal past goalkeeper-coach Lincoln Phillips in the 40th minute of play for the only score by Rochester in the afternoon's work. Herrera had also scored two of his team's trio of goals in last week's contest, or three of the total four.

Washington, putting on a hustling display of offense, outshot the Lancers 18-10 for the day, with three Darts attempts rapping off the crossbar rather than finding their way to the nets.

The real difference in the contest possibly came from a clutch defending crew of Winston Earle, Charlie Mitchell, Peter Short and Phil Davis. The foursome, along with midfielders Yao Kankam and Luis Marotti, came through to halt the Darts by merely slowing them down to build a runout of time for the comeback.

"The defensive efforts by Rochester made the Darts' playoff hopes meet the same fate as those of the Baltimore Bays in their 1967 National Professional League playoffs with the Oakland Clippers, the Bays getting topped on a total scoring difference of 4-1 after taking on opening match win of 1-0. Of course, a difference showed in Baltimore's attempt to get just a tie in the second match and failing, while the Clippers played a marvelous offense to take the honors," offered Fix.

"In both playoffs, the winner's success in half of the match brought championships, the 1967 one with offense and this year defense. The champs, in both cases, could have been different in an overall won-lost record for a three-match setup." Making their exit from the stadium after trophy presentations, many of the 5543 in attendance could be overheard agreeing with Fix on the method of deciding the championship, with the Washington fans displaying a definite bit of anger in their disappointment.

Over the complete schedule of the season, the Darts slapped off a Southern Division championship record of 14-6-4, with the playoff split making their total 15-7-4, easilty the best in the NASL. Rochester finished the playoffs with an overall record of 10-10-6.

Scoring yesterday for Washington were Leroy DeLeon with a penalty kick in the 42nd minute, Joseph (Nana) Gyau, assisted by Bertrand Grell in the 49th minute and Gerry Browne with an assist by Warren Archibald in the 63rd minute.

Hardly winding up their championship setback with a motion of admitting defeat, the Darts have slated an exhibition match for Friday, 8 p.m. at RFK Stadium with Santos of Brazil, the team with the world's most renowned athlete, Pele. General Manager Norman Sutherland brings the Brazilian team to the nation's capital as part of a promise to "build soccer as a major American sport."