The Washington Diplomats, still entertaining hopes of beating out the defending champion Cosmos for the National Conference Eastern Division Title, visit the surging Toronto Blizzard Wednesday night in the beginning of what Coach Gordon Bradley calls the "critical point of the season."

The Diplomats, with a 9-3 mark and 81 points, eight behind the 10-2 Cosmos, face the 5-8 Blizzard at Exhibition Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Washington then plays in Tampa Bay Saturday night and in Detroit next Wednesday night.

"This game is important to us because they (Toronto) are in our division," Bradley said. "It'll be tough getting points from any of these teams. Toronto has been playing exceptionally well and they'll be coming after us."

The Blizzard (formerly the Metros-Croatia" always has given Washington fits. Toronto is famous for its umbrella defense that employs as many as eight and nine men back to protect the goal.

Toronto used that tactic to perfection in 1976 when it won the NASL crown. It always has been tough at home in past years but a change of ownership and fields has made the Blizzard a bit more human this year.

Under first-year Coach Keith Eddy, a former player under Bradley when both were with the Cosmos, the Blizzard lost seven of its first eight games.