Washington Diplomat Coach Gordon Bradley said yesterday he would be interested in trying to obtain disgruntled Cosmos forward Gary Etherington, last year's North American Soccer League rookie of the year from Mount Vernon High School.

Etherington has not dressed for either of the Cosmos' first two games, and said Sunday after his team's 3-2 victory over the Diplomats that "someone put a dagger in my back.

"If the rookie of the year can't even sit on the bench for this team something's wrong," he said.

Etherington, who scored three goals and had 11 assits last year while starting in place of injured Dennis Tueart and Steve Hunt, said after the game he will discuss his future with the Cosmos later this week.

"He's a good player. I know because I signed him," said Bradley, who took Etherington right out of high school. "I'll find out his status as soon as his meeting with the fron office is over. Money might be a problem but we'd certainly be interested in getting him. We have good people up from bow and Gary would be a good addition. Plus, he's local."

In an interview several days before the Diplomat-Cosmos game. Ethering said he was taking a wait-and-see approach to find out what the club intended to do with him.

"They've signed some players to play up front, that bothered me very much," Etherington said "I feel I played well enough last year to earn some playing time. I think I can play with anyone in the league, now. I don't know what the coach is going to do, but if I don't play I may ask to leave next year."

Apparently, Etherington, 20, was seething because he didn't dress for the game in his home town and asked for a meeting with coach Eddie Firmani and the front office.

"He said some things out of frustration", a Cosmos official said yesterday. "It'll be cleared up soon."

Bradley would still like to improve the Diplomats' offensive production, although they have controlled the action and outshot the opposition in all three games. They now have outshot their foes, 73-36.

Paul Cannell and Ken Mokgojoa, the team's leading scorers last season, have yet to start a game. Cannell, now fully recovered from a leg operation in the offseason, saw his first action Sunday. He played 7 1/2 minutes in the second overtime but failed to get off a shot. He did take a shot in the shootout and just missed winning the game for Washington.

Mokgojoa is completing his final season in South Africa and is expected to join the club in time for Saturday's game at Fort Lauderdale.

"With a healthy Paul and Ken back, it gives me good depth," said Bradley. "I didn't have that last year. As much as I'd like to have Gary, I still have good wingers. The players will show me in practice who will make the team.The competition for shots will be good."

Most of the Dips were anxious to work out and forget Sunday's frustrating afternoon.

"If we were outplayed, it wouldn't be so bad," said defender Tommy O'Hara. "I couldn't see us losing even when we went to the shootout. We did everything we were supposed to do to beat them. You think back about the game and you get an empty felling.

"You can't forget about it. Ou must try to get over it and think about the next game. Because it was the Cosmos and the game was so important to us, it bothers me. But we've got to knuckle down and get ready for the Fort Lauderdale game. It's very important to get a win as quickly as possible. You don't want to come back and lose another one after the Cosmos game."

The Striker game Saturday suddenly looms very important to the Dips. After that game, they will play in Rochester Sunday, April 22 before returning home to host Tulsa April 29.

The Dips currently are in first place in the National Conference's East Division with 2-1 mark and 19 points. The Cosmos (2-0) have 17 points, but also a game in hand.

"We want to beat the Strikesrs. You have to be careful at this point." said Bradley. "If we lose, we will have played three home games, all very well, and could be 2-2. But we still have 27 games to play. We can't bring the Cosmos' game back although we wished we could have played them again yesterday."

Bradley said all of the players are healthy and available for the Striker game. O'Hara fell on his sore shouler but remained in the game. He is listed as probable for Saturday...Dip Alan happen who has scored two goals in each of his last two games, now is the leading scorer in the NASL with four goals and an assist for nine points.Midfielder Joe Horvata, with sixpoints, is tied for second with three other players...Washington goalie Bill Irwin is third in the National Conference with a 1.26 goals against average. CAPTION: Picture, Gary Etherington