Paul Cannell, the leading scorer for the Washington Diplomats, returns to the lineup tonight when the Dips take on the lowly San Jose Earthquakes in a North American Soccer League match in San Jose's Spartan Stadium.

The game will be broadcast on WTOP radio (1500) at 11 p.m. and televised on a delayed basis on WTTG-channel 5 at 11:30.

Cannell missed the team's last two games while serving a suspension handed down by league Commissioner Phil Woosnam for an incident in a May 13 game against Tulsa. He has scored 11 goals and assisted on a half-dozen others in 16 appearances this year and is the club's all-time top scorer.

Defender Tommy O'Hara, who sprained a groin muscle in a collision with Andries Maseko during practice Thursday, is expected to start. Maseko, a substitute forward, hurt his right shoulder in the collision, but he also is expected to be available.

The Earthquakes have not registered very high on the Richer scale this season. They have the worst record in the league, 5-18 with 11 straight losses, and have the fewest points (55). San Jose has scored only 26 goals in 23 games while yielding 59.

On Wednesday in Detroit, the Express rolled over the Earthquakes by a 10-0 score, establishing league records for goals in a game and widest margin of victory. In that game, Detroit's Trevor Francis scored five goals, tying another league mark.

The Earthquakes have not fared much better in the close ones, either. They have lost seven of nine overtime games. Five of the setbacks have been in shootouts.

Diplomat Coach Gordon Bradley enters the game with a cautious outlook. "I'm not happy playing them at home after a 10-0 loss on the road," he said. "They will be trying to redeem themselves. That will make them play more competitively."

San Jose will be missing suspended forward Paul Child, the league's fourth-leading lifetime scorer entering this season. Child received a red card in Sunday's game against Los Angeles, resulting in ejection then and a two-game suspension.

Washington has won four of its last five and is 13-10. Left wing Ken Mokgojoa willbe attempting to extend his streak of goal-scoring games to six.