Washington Diplomat Coach Gordon Bradley didn't have to raise his voice at practice yesterday. Only a handful of players were present for a morning workout at the field adjacent to RFK Stadium.
"Quiet out here. Everybody's gone to the doctor," said Bradley. "I've never seen so many injuries to one team at one time. And to key players. You can't do much out here. There are no plyers."
Washington, hit hard by injuries over the last two weeks, has lost three straight games and four of its last five. this season, seven of the 11 starters have missed games because of injuries. Another was suspended for 28-days. Whatever struck the Dips filtered down to the reserve ranks too, as several substitutes also have been disabled.
In a desperate move to strengthen his team, Bradley brought in David Proctor, a striker, and Henry Van Der Ven, a midfielder, for the three-game road trip last week. Both players are injured.
"I get a good midfielder and he gets hurt. How I have to go out and find another one," said Bradley, forcing a smile. "I have no idea who will play Saturday."
Washington held a tryout yesterday afternoon but the odds are that none of the 12 invitees will don a Dip uniform for Saturday night's game against the Toronto Metros at RFK.
Bradley has not pushed the panic button.
"Despite the losses, we played well and had chances to win all three," said Bradley. "In the second half, we were the stronger side in each game. It's tough to play three games in six days and travel 7,000 miles. You just can't do it and play great soccer."
Washington, 8-5 with 71 points, trails the Cosmos (9-2), by six points. The Cosmos play in Toronto tonight.
Most of the Dips have taken defender Alex Pringle's attitude. "You don't have time to rest your injuries, so you stop worrying about them," said Pringle, who has been playing on a bad ankle for two weeks.
Doubtful players for Saturday include Van Der Ven (ankle sprain) and Paul Cannell (shin contusion). Cannell, the team's leading scorer with 20 points, said he could play but has to sit out a one game suspension because of points accumulated by yellow cards.
"When I'm fit, I'm suspended," said Cannell.
Washington's other walking wounded are Mike Bakic (thigh strain), Ken Mokgojoa (ankle sprain), Proctor (knee strain), Jim Steele (groin strain) and Bobby Stokes (foot strain). Stokes has been playing with a sore foot for a few games but he and goalkeeper Bill Irwin haven't missed a minute.
"Everybody has to play with little knocks," said Stokes. "But no one is making excuses. That's not our way. A lot of people who are playing are sore."
All wasn't too bleak at practice. Defender Tommy O'Hara said he was almost "99 percent healed from a tail-bone bruise" and centerback Mike Dillon, who missed six games because of a suspension, played well in the 3-2 loss to Minnesota on Monday.
The brightest spot for the team has been the rapid development of midfielder Sakib Viteskic. Originally expected to be a capable reserve at best, Viteskic has played all but 45 minutes and is second in scoring with 12 points. He also has been playing good defense.
Bradley was especially pleased the team wasn't blown out or quit in the 2-1 losses to Portland and Vancouver or the 3-2 defeat at the hands of Minnesota.
"The lineup was changed so much and still we did well. We also picked up four points," said Bradley. "It's a pity we couldn't pull out a win."
A loss to the Metros could be disastrous. They are the weakest team the Dips will play in the next few contests.