Joe Horvath, whose knowledge of the English language hardly goes beyond "Thank you very much," let his flashy feet do all the talking for the Washington Diplomats yesterday.

Horvath, the Hungarian midfielder acquired from Rochester in the offseason, scored unassisted from 15 yards out with just 47 seconds elapsed in the first overtime period to earn the Dips a 2-1 victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the North American Soccer League opener for both teams.

A crowd of 12,624 at RFK Stadium, largest ever to attend a Diplomat opener, was preparing to settle back and watch the teams begin a defensive struggle and wait for a break in the 7 1/2-minute overtime session.

But Washington, which dominated play in the first half, then played pcorly in the second, immediately went on the attack in the sudden-death extra session.

The Diplomats' Bobby Iarusci, outstanding in his debut at the right back position, lofted a high crossing pass from the right side that was not cleared by the Striker defense.

The ball dropped at Horvath's feet, and he blasted a left-footed shot into the right side of the net just under the dive of surprised Striker goalie Arnie Mausser.

"The ball was deflected by one of my teammates, and not cleared out," said Striker defender Tony Whelan. "The ball then dropped right in front of Horvath and he hit a good shot."

Striker Coach Ron Newman, who will have to wait at least until the next game to get his 100th NASL career coaching victory, said a defensive lapse allowed the goal.

"A little inexperience back there made that goal possible," he said. "They should have not had the bloody goal. A couple of people were in the wrong position. Had they moved, we could have stopped it very easily."

Newman was especially let down because his team, after a horrendous showing in the first 45 minutes, came back to control play and eventually gain a tie at 1-1 on a goal by Gary Jones, at the 56:13 mark.

"Fort Lauderdale didn't have anything to lose at that point and they just came at us," said Washington Coach Gordon Bradley. "We were very sharp in the first half, then went flat. We didn't have a leader to pick us up in the second half. Usually it's Jimmy Steele, but he was having trouble with his own game."

Steele, the Dips' reliable sweeper for the past two seasons, had a few problems running the Washington offense at his new position as center midfielder. A few of his passes were off the mark and he seemed to have trouble getting in position to set the Dips' offense in motion

"It was like watching a tennis match, balls going everywhere," said Steele. "We did all right when we had the ball way out but in the second half, we had a few problems. It's tough getting the ball to Bobby (Stokes) and Alan (Green). Bobby is 5-foot-2 (actually 5-8) and Alan is 5-nothing (5-7). But we'll get it. It'll get better."

Nothing could have been better in the first half, at least as far as Washington was concerned in its debut under the new management, Madison Square Garden Corp.

Stokes, starting at the striker position in place of injured Paul Cannell, made his first shot a bull's-eye when he ripped a low liner under Mausser's lunge to put the Dips ahead, 1-0, with just 1:15 gone in the game.

The play was set up when Green passed the ball to to the far corner to Tommy O'Hara, who in turn sent Stokes a nice cross, directly in front of the goal mouth.

Unfortunately, many of the Dips' fans failed to see the goal because they were stuck in a traffic jam outside of the stadium. Many were season-ticket holders and they were upset because parking spaces allotted to ticket holders at Gates 4 and 5 already were filled.

"I don't know what happened. There was a messup somewhere," said Dips' General Manager John Carbray. "It'll be straightened out by next Sunday (when the Dips host Atlanta)."

Washington outshot Fort Lauderdale, 10-4 in the first half and 21-8 for the game. The Strikers were playing without several starters (injured or suspended).

The goal post, a few good saves by Mausser and fate prevented the Dips from turning the game into a runaway in the early going.

A Stokes goal late in the first half was nullified by a foul call on Green. Jones also put the ball in the net for the Strikers in the second half but an offsides call nullified that score.

Washington's lead suddenly became shaky as the strikers, a little late in coming back for the second half, came out running and put Washington on the retreat. The lead finally disappeared when Jones played a deflected shot back past prone diplomat goalie Bill Irwin. Peruvian World Cup Star Teofilo Cubillas, who was held in check by Dips' defenders, put the play in motion when he was awarded an indirect free kick. His shot bounced off the legs of the Washington defensive wall and Maurice Whittle hummed a rocket right at Irwin. The Washington goalie stopped the ball but was unable to control it. The ball caromed toward Jones, who scored easily.

Fort Lauderdale kept the pressure on but Iarusci, with several good defensive plays, and Don Droege kept the Washington defense from wilting.

"They didn't cause much of a threat. The one goal they got was off a free kick," said Iarusci, who was acquired from the Cosmos.

Washington didn't have much time for a letdown after its bad second half.Horvath saw to that.