The Washington Diplomats know they will be one of 16 teams in the North American Soccer League playoffs starting this week, but just which team the Dips, making their second playoff appearance in the five-year history of the club, will play, is not known.
At illtimed three game losing streak, the last loss coming Wednesday night at the hands of the Cosmos, 2-1, prevented Washington from finishing with the best secondplace record in the National Conference and earning the homefield advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Washington (16-13 and 145-points) now finds itself needing at least a goal in tonight's game in Toronto (15-14 and 136) to finish ahead of the surging Metros for second place in the Eastern Division.
The final regular season contest for both teams will be broadcast on WTOP Radio 1500 at 7:30.
"Obviously, we'll be thinking about that one goal, but we'd like to win the game, too," said Dip winger Ray Graydon. "We've been either No. 1 or 2 in our division all season, and we feel we deserve second place and won't settle for anything else. We don't want to fall to third."
As long as Washington scores at least one goal, win or lose, it will play in Portland Wednesday night in a one-game playoff.
But if the Dips are shut out and the Metros pick up the maximum nine points, the teams would finish with the same records - 16-14 and 145 points. However, Toronto would assume second place because of a better goal difference during the 30-game season.
Washington would then become the wild-card team with the most points and would play in Vancouver Wednesday night.
The 1976 Soccer Bowl-champion Metros have always been an excellent defensive team. In a streak that produced 10 wins in the last 15 games. Toronto yielded only 22 goals. But 10 of them came in two games. During that surge, they blanked Washington, 3-0, at RFK Stadium.
The Metros' offense received a boost midway in the season when forwards Ivan Lukacevic and Sead Susie joined the club. Lukacevic scored 15 goals and had five assists in 15 games.
Goalkeeper Zelfo Bilecki is ranked 10th in the league with a 1.42 goals against average. He has 116 saves and five shutouts.
Washington Coach Gordon Bradley will be missing leading scorer Paul Cannell (35 points) tonight. The striker picked up his ninth yellow card of the season and must sit out the Toronto game on suspension.
Ken Mokgojoa will probably start at STRIKER, WITH Graydon and Mike Bakic on the wings.
Centerback Mike Dillon, suspended for the Cosmo game, and midfielder Cus Haddink, who missed that game because of personal problems with his former club in Netherlands, are expected to return to the lineup tonight.