Players of the North American Soccer League went on strike yesterday but the league's 24 clubs, including the Washington Diplomats, said they would field teams in games today and tonight.

The Dips were without five players, who decided to honor the strike, when the team enplaned yesterday for tonight's 8 o'cock match against the Strikers in Fort Launderdale, Fla.

Players Association Executive Director Ed Garvey said an overwhelming majority of members voted for the strike, which, he said, was over recognition of the union.

Washington's starting defenders, Robert larusci and Don Droege, and midfielder Sonny Askew, along with backup goalie Bob Stetler, the team's player representative, and reserve middfielder Carmen Marcantonio failed to report for yesterday morning's practice and were left home.

In addition, Washington may play without forward Alan Green in the rematch against the American Conference Eastern Division leaders. Green, the NASL leading scorer with nine points, has the flu.

"Defensively we'll have to make some adjustments," said Washington Coach Gordon Bradley. "But that's where our depth comes in. We shouldn't feel a pinch because we have good people who can step in and play. But I didn't count on Green not being available.

"I've tried to prepare for this strike. It could have been injuries that kept these players out so we have to deal with the situation as such," Bradley said. "We were going to play regardless."

Bradley and Steve Danzansky, the club president, said no action other than the loss of pay for the period of absence will be taken against the striking Dips.

"Essentially, they're just off the payroll until they decide to do the job their contracts call for. I'd like to have them back tomorrow," Danzansky said.

Washington voted, 15-7, earlier in the week to support the strike but many players changed their minds for various reasons.

The president of the Strikers, Elizabeth Robbie, said her players did not join the walkout. They reportedly voted, 10-2, against the strike.

Elsewhere around the league, teams were scrambling for players.

"We'll activate our coaches," said Seattle General Manager Jack Daley. "I've signed four free agents. At this point we're not choosy."

Only two Rochester Lancers were on a team flight for tonight's game in Tulsa. The Lancers said they would fly in goalie Kurt Kuykendall, who formerly played for American University and the Dips.

The champion Cosmos, however, said a full complement of regulars, including Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia, will be available in Atlanta tonight. The team voted, 20-2 to strike early yesterday before changing its position.

"The fact that the lads are split will cause some harm," said Dip midfielder Jim Steele. "The guys on strike feel like we let them down. I feel the same way about them."

The strikers, who lost their opening game of the year, in Washington, on a Joe Horvath goal 47 seconds into the first overtime, will have controversial midfielder George Best. The sometimes-brilliant English star was recently reinstated by FIFA and joined the Strikers last week.

Washington (2-1) leads the National Conference's Eastern Division with 19 points.

Washington will start Bill Irwin in goal. Tommy O'Hara, Mike Dillon, Ane Mihailovicb and Steele will be in the back with Sakib Viteskic and Rene Breevoort in the midfield. Bobby Stokes, Paul Cannell and either Mike Bakic or Ken Mokgojoa will be up front.

The NASL clubs will not be restricted by he two Americans on the field rule this weekend. Because of the strike, the league office will allow clubs to play anyone on the roster.

Approximately 69 percent of the players voted to support a strike when a poll was taken earlier in the week. The three Canadian teams, Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton, cannot strike because Canadian law prohibits strikes for union recognition.

"The league will try to play but some games will be a farce," said Garvey. "We have no idea how long the strike will go on. We'll evaluate the results week by week.

"The strike will have some effect on the game, even though some of the players will play," said Garvey, speaking at a press conference at his Washington office yesterday morning. "This is not a case of players being greedy. The average salary for American players last year was $1,056 a month. For foreign players it was $1,700 a month. Many of them would be better off driving a truck than playing soccer."

The five striking Diplomats were all North Americans.

The foreign players, who make up 55 percent of the NASL rosters, were caught in the middle. Eash side charged the other with threatening them with deportation.

Garvey said that the Immigration and Naturalization Service will be advised of the strike and "that it will be unlawful for them (foreign players) to play."

The league went into District Court here seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent INS from deporting any of the foreign players. Judge George L. Hart Jr. said he could not act until the INS did. But if the service acted to deport the foreign players, he said he would prevent it, if the case was in his jurisdiction.

Paul Schmidt, deputy general counsel for the INS, said his office is awaiting official notification of the strike from the Labor Department.

"No attempt has been made to take any action," said Schmidt. "Until a determination is made by the Labor Department, we don't have anything to say about the matters."

But John Russell, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said, "If they (the foreign players) go on strike, they are not complying with the terms of their visas. Even if they go to work somewhere else, they're deportable."