The North American Soccer League's most prolific scoring team earlier in this season suddenly lost sight of the net.

Going into tonight's 8 o'clock contest against the Detroit Express at the Silverdome, the Washington Diplomats have been shut out in their last two games and have lost three of their last four.

Now 9-5 with 81 points, the Dips are in danger of falling out of sight of the Cosmos, the Eastern Division leaders with an 11-2 record and 98 points, and being overhauled by the surging Toronto Blizzard, 7-8 and 64 points.

Injuries have played a major role in Washington's recent slump, but Coach Gordon Bradley has refused to use that as an excuse for his team's lack of offense.

"It's no secret we haven't scored a goal in two games," Bradley said. "We don't want to start emphasizing offense because it's not a big, big problem. The players know what's wrong. We've been getting chances; we just haven't got on the board.

"It's important for us to stay ahead of Toronto until some of our players get off the injury list," Bradley said. "I'll be glad to have one or two back."

Since the team's two top scorers, striker Alan Green (sixth in the league with 21 points) and midfielder Joe Horvath (tied for seventh with 18 points) went out with inuries, the Washington offense has been very silent.

Except for Paul Cannel's three goals against New England, the Dips have one goal in four games.

The 2-0 loss in Toronto was not totally unexpected since the physical Blizzards have mugged the Dips eight of the last 10 times they have met.

However, the Rowdies' victory Saturday night in Tampa, the lone goal coming with 1:11 left in the game, was hard to take.

"We watched the goal on instant replay the other day and it looked very, ver bad," Bradley said, meaning goaltender Bill Irwin should have stopped it. "Billy and the defense had played very well at night.

Detroit (6-8) could help end the Dips' woes. The defending American Conference Central Division champs are struggling. The Express has not defeated a team with a winning record this season, and two of its last four losses were at the Silverdome.

The Express received another setback today Striker Trevor Francis, Detroit's 1978 star expected to be in action tonight, will not arrive from England until Friday. Without Francis, Detroit may be hard-pressed to avert its fifth straight defeat.

"We need this one badly," said Bobby Stokes, who will start up front with Cannell. Ken Mokgojoa probably will be the third forward.

"I think we're starting to get desperate for a win on the road," Stokes said. "We're a little too anxious.

"I'd be worried if we weren't creating chances, but we are. We just aren't finishing."

Washington has fired 269 shots on goal and connected on 32, the third highest goal total in the league. By contrast, Washington opponents have had 200 tries and scored 19 times.

Mokgojoa, the fleet South African left wing who was second on the team in scoring last year, played well in spots in his first start this year Saturday night in Tampa. Bradley said Mokgojoa is "just getting into the offense and should be much better tonight."

Midfielders Sakib Viteskic and Rene Breevoort came out of the Tampa game limping, but they are listed as starters tonight.