Paul Cannell, the Diplomats' all-time leading scorer, has nearly recovered from an operation to remove calcium deposits from his shin, and said yesterday he will be ready for the April 8 game with the Cosmos at RFK Stadium.

Ken Mokgojoa, playing his final season in South Africa, could also be in uniform in time for the Cosmos.

They were the Dips' top scorers last season. When they return, Coach Gordon Bradley will find himself in a pleasant situation.

"It means I'll have lots of depth at the front," he said.

Bobby Stokes, who put Washington on the board with a goal before the season-opener was 90 seconds old at RFK Sunday, played in Cannell's striker position and did exceptionally well. Alan Green, who signed with the club only three days before the opener, and veteran Mike Bakic also played well at the wings.

The trio gave the usually tight Fort Lauderdale defense fits in the first half of the 2-1 victory, bombarding it with shots on goal. Several of the attempts barely missed.

"We had a lot of good shots and should have scored a couple of more goals," said Stokes. "We played at such a quick pace, we kind of burned ourselves out. We went flat the second half. But, with a few games behind us, we'll get better."

Bradley is faced with a decision before Sunday's game here against the Atlanta Chiefs (formerly the Colorado Caribou).

Bakic sprained his ankle in the first half of the Striker game and has been declared out for this week. Either Danny Molendyk, who replaced Bakic, or the quick Andries Maseko will start.

Midfielder Sakib Viteskic suffered a slight groin pull during practice this week but Bradley says he's "looking for him to play."

If the Washington offense has a glaring weakness, it's the size of Green, Stokes and Maseko, all 5-foot-6 to 5-7. The midfielders had a tough time getting the ball inside to Stokes and Green in the opener and many of the high crossing passes designed for taller players did not connect.

"We have to get the right service because we are small guys," said Stokes. "With Bakic (6-foot) out, it could put a little added strain on us."

A welcome surprise has been offensive help from the defenders.

The back four of Don Droege, Mike Dillon, Tommy O'Hara and Robert Iarusci raced upfield to take a total of five shots, just one less than the midfielders.

"It's an asset if your defenders can help out on offense," said right back Iarusci, who nearly scored on both his attempts. "But if it was hurting my defense, I wouldn't come up as much. It's like a surprise attack when defenders come up for a shot. Besides, everyone likes to score."