The Washington Diplomats, acquiring tans along with conditioning in spring-training workouts under a bright Southwest sun, saw their 1978 season hopes brighten yesterday as they came to a verbal agreement for the services of a star English player, Ray Graydon.
Graydon, an outstanding forward for Coventry City (England) last year and a veteran of 11 English League seasons, is expected to sign a Diplomat contract this week.
Coach Gordon Bradley's young team is finding that workouts in the desert are just the tickets for a team from the sodden East. The North American Soccer League squad is conducting two-a-day practices at Dudley Field here in preparing for their league-opener, April 1, in Philadelphia.
The Diplomats were forced to detour their training trip to California because of rainy weather there. General Manager John Carbray made arragements with Jim Paul, and old friend and general manager of the Class AA Texas League El Paso Diablos baseball club, to use El Paso's ballpark to practice in.
"We have had good weather and good workouts. There's plenty of room inside the baseball field to lay out a soccer field, so things have worked out well," said Bradley.
"This is the first time we're been able to get out of the snow and into the sun. We've had some sore muscles and strains, but nothing serious. It's been very enjoyable but a lot of hard work, too."
The Diplomats are on a 17-day spring training jaunt that takes them to Oakland today for five exhibition games next week. They return to Washington March 21, then trek to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for an exhibition match there on the 23rd. They split a pair of games in Tulsa recently.
Bradley likes the work of Paul Cannel,'a center-forward and striker who came to the club from England.
"Cannell is important to our game and, he will be an asset to our team this year as a striker," Bradley said.
But Carmen Mark Antonio is showing very god form. He's from Toronto. A South African, Kenneth Mokgojoa, is also showing fine form. I look forward to him delighting the crowds. We will have thre more players joining us in Oakland," Bradley said.
Graydon, who played First Division soccer for seven of his 11 seasons, has scored 106 goals in 346 English League games.
He is due to join the Diplomats today and will play tomorrow in an exhibition game against the Oakland Stompers.
"He's scored goals everywhere he's played," said Bradley.
Besides reaching agreement with Graydon, the Diplomats signed Pete Caringi of Baltimore, their fourth-round pick in the recent NASL draft. Caringi, twice the MVP at the University of Baltimore, scored 70 goals in four varsity seasons.
The only three positions currently nailed down belong to sweeped Jimmy Steele, center-back Mike Dillion and Cannel. All played well in a 5-0 scrimmage win over a University of Texas at El Paso team. The Diplomats dominated the two-hour match Thursday.
Cannell had a slightly swollen jaw after being punched by a Texas-El Paso player, near the goal, during a brief skirmish early in the game.
"It was a hard workout," Bradley said. "We've done a lot running because you have to be in great shape to play this game. We needed the competition because, playing among ourselves, everyone know what every one else is going to do.
"Every team in the league is doing the same thing we're doing and they're bringing in new players, too. So we won't know how good we're going to be until we start playing. But our players have been working very hard and there is a lot of competition for places on the team."
What the Diplomats have done here is to get suntanned during relaxed midmorning and heavy late-afternoon workouts. At night, Bradley conducts chalk talks.