Washington Diplomat Coach Gordon Bradley says he would like to get striker Paul Cannell into his team's sputtering attack, but not until Cannell is physically fit from offseason surgery to remove calcium deposits from his shin.

"We've talked about it and we agree that Paul in not fit yet," Bradley said yesterday. "He doesn't feel his timing is right yet."

Cannell, the team's all-time leading scorer, suited up for the Sunday game against Rochester, a disappointing 1-0 loss to the Lancers, but did not play.

"I'm not very sharp yet," Cannell said after the game. "I'm working myself into condition. It will take time. I'm not going to rush it. I'm not disappointed that I haven't played. The few minutes I played (7 1/2 against Fort Lauderdale), I got tired."

Bradley said yesterday he had not made a decision on whether to use Cannell Sunday when the Diplomats return to RFK Stadium to play Tulsa, the undefeated (4-0) Central Division champions. He will wait and see how Cannell performs in practice this week, he said.

Without Cannell, a 5-foot-11 leaper who is excellent on high balls, the Diplomat offense has been reduced to a wing attack. Bobby Stokes and Alan Green, both 5-7, are not effective scoring treats from the striker position.

Bradley, meanwhile, was still having a hard time swallowing the loss to Rochester.

"There's no way we should have lost to them," he said. "We dominated the game throughout.

"It was one of the most disappointing games I've experienced in some time. To have as many chances as we did and then not earn one point is hard to swallow."

The shutout left Washington with a 3-2 record and 28 points, seven behind the two-time defending North American Soccer League (4-0) won their fourth straight Sunday, beating Fort Lauderdale, 3-2.

The Dips had ample opportunities to put away the Lancers early but failed to capitalize. Rochester even played the final 34 minutes of regulation and 4 1/2 minutes of overtime one man short because of an ejection for rough play. Washington outshot the hosts, 20-17, but had four attempts hit the goal post and two others just roll wide.

"Offensively, we weren't very smooth," Bradley said. "We know we should have beaten Rochester, but the fact is we didn't. We'll just have to pull ourselves together and get back on the winning track."

Speaking of Tulsa, Bradley said, "They have one of he better teams in the league, but it's absolutely vital we get a good result against them. You have to win your home games in this league."

The only positive factor in Sunday's loss was the lack of Diplomat injuries. Jim Steele, Robert Iarusci and Joe Horvath suffered minor leg bruises, but nothing serious. All three will start Sunday.

Gary Darrell, the team captain, will undergo surgery today for the removal of a cartilage in his knee. He is expected to be out six to eight weeks.

Defender Ane Mihailovich, who suffered a badly sprained ankle in Washington's 4-0 win over Fort Lauderdale 10 days ago, and Mike Bakic, also limping from a sprained ankle, will begin training again this week and may play Sunday.

The Dips, still looking for additional offensive help, are still waiting for the Cosmos to make a decision on forward Gary Etherington.

The 1979 NASL rookie of the year is disgruntled with his lack of playing time and has asked to be traded, preferable to Washington. Etherington attended Mount Vernon High School before joining the Cosmos two years ago.

"Nothing has happened with Etherington yet," said Diplomat General Manager John Carbrary. "We're Still waiting for the Cosmos to decide something. They are trying to sign a few more players so they'll have to do something with Gary. Yes, we'd still like to have him." CAPTION: Picture, Paul Cannell