The Washington Diplomats gave the disorganized Memphis Rogues a clinic in the art of soccer last night, punching home two goals in each half to earn their fourth straight victory, 4-1, before 5,223 at RFK Stadium.

The Rogues, reportedly for sale and operating under an interim coach, Charlie Cooke, played as though they didn't have a clue to what was going on. Washington came out of the gate running and never let up in handing the visitors (2-7) a sound trouncing.

"They were hopeless, "Dip defender Tommy O'Hara said. "They were the worst team I've seen." Even when the game was scoreless, O'Hara said, "They weren't trying. They had no fight from the beginning."

Cooke, a feisty 35-year-old midfielder suddenly put in charge of the team Tuesday when Eddie McCreadile was fired, said he had no excuses or alibis for his team's shoddy play.

'We were outplayed, no question," Cooke said."We've had a tough time both on and off the field. These things happen."

The Dips, 7-2 and tied with the Cosmos for first place in the Eastern Division with 62 points, made things happen from the start. And they did it without striker Paul Cannell, who sat out the game with a fractured cheekbone.

Cannell collided with teammate Kip German during practice Tuesday, but he shook off the injury and had planned to play against Memphis.

"It didn't hurt. I started to spit up blood just before the game, and they held me out," said Cannell, who will be examined by a plastic surgeon today to decide if surgery is necessary.

Should surgery not be necessary, Cannell could play in New England Wednesday. On the other hand, Cannell could be lost for two to four weeks.

Washington didn't miss Cannell last night. Playing their best first half of the year, the Dips used a sharp passing attack and a tenacious defense to take control early. Washington bombarded Rogue goalkeeper Gene DuChateau for 18 minutes without scoring before Joe Horvath rifled a 20-yard dart into the net to send the Dips ahead, 1-0.

Horvath, who had not been playing well the past few games, said he benefited from a "little talk" with Coach Gordon Bradley earlier in the week and came out with different attitude. Horvath, Sakib Viteskic, Sonny Askew and Rene Breevoort played almost flawlessly in a new four-man midfield alignment, setting up plays and stealing one Memphis pass after another.

"We played one-touch socceer. Lately, I had not been getting enough balls, but this game they were looking for me," Horvath said, through an interpreter. "The ball went to everyone tonight. That's why we got so many shots and four goals."

Viteskic, an adept passer when healthy, slipped a perfect ball to the swift Alan Green, who turned defender Bob Thompson completely around before ramming in a 12-yard left-footed shot to give Washington a 2-0 advantage at the half.

"We should have had six goals in the first half," O'Hara said.

"He (DuChateau) played a great game," Bradley said. "Our passing movements were unbelievable in the first half."

Horvath made a nice move to get free in front of the goal and sent a hard shot past out-of-position DuChateau into the corner of the goal to push the Dips to a 3-0 lead at 55:27. Brevoort and Booby Stokes assisted.