Bolstered by their first win in six games, the Washington Diplomats travel to Tampa Fla., tonight for a key Eastern Division matchup with the Tampa Bay Rowdies (WTTG-TV-5, 8 p.m.).

The Rowdies, twice Eastern champions in the North American Soccer, have been struggling for the last month and are the only team Washington had a realistic chance of catching for the last of the division's three playoff berths.

Since the resignation on June 3, of coach Eddie Firmani, who led the Rowdies to the NASL title in 1975, the club has faltered, compiling a 2-5 record under new coach John Boyle after being 7-3 under Firmani.

That adds up to an overall mark of 9-8 good for 85 points. The Rowdies have a 26-point - or three win - bulge over the Dips (7-10; 59 points) with nine games left on the schedule.

"If we get the kind of chances against Tampa that we got aganist Rochester we should have a good chance of winning," said forward Alan Green, whose fourth goal of the season gave the Diplomats their 1-0 win over Rochester Monday night. "We can't be worring about the standing, though."

The two clubs met earlier in the season in Washington, Tampa Bay emerging with a 1-0 victory on a last minute goal by Rodney Marsh.

The Diplomats were booed by their goal-starved fans in the latter stages of Monday night's gamee when they played keep-away to protect their lead. Goals are important because one up to three in a game in worth one standings point.

"I heard the fans," said coach Alan Spavin, who evened his coaching record at 1-1. "I can understand how they feel. But we needed a good result more than anything to get back on the right track. I thought our chances would be better that way so I told the lads to hold the ball."