The Washington Diplomats, the hottest team in the North American Soccer League at the moment, will again try to close ground on the division-leading Cosmos tonight when they face the California Surf in Anaheim (WTTG-TV-5, 11 p.m.).
The Surf, 10-14, is in second place in the American Conference West, the lague's weakest division. The Dips, 16-7 for 141 points, trail the Cosmos by 13 points in the National Conference East with seven games remaining in the regular season.
The contest is the first of two on the road for the Dips, who play the Souners in the Seattle Kingdome Wednesday night. Wednesday night. of their last seven games including impressive wins at home this week over Seattle and Vancouver. Both cbs came into Washington off wins over the Cosmos in the Meadowlands.
The Surf, which moved to Anaheim from St. Louis prior to the 1978 season, has had a rocky year thus far. Early in the season, longtime Coach John Sewell was fired and replaced by Player-coach Peter Wall.
The only reason the Surf will probably cruise into the playoffs with little difficulty is their presence in the AC West, which is led by San Diego. The Sockers have a 10-12 record.
California has played better lately, having beaten Portland, 2-1, on Wednesday for its fourth straight win at home. The leading scorer is Lawrie Abrams, recently acquired from Tulsa. In four games for the Surf Abrams has scored a goal in each. Overall, he is the fith-leading scorer in the American Conference with 15 goals and six assists for 36 points.
California's second-leading scorer is former Diplomat Gerry Ingram, who has eight goals and six assistts for 22 points. If the Surf has a glaring weakness it may be in goal, where Dave Jokrst has a mediocre 1.86 goals-against average.
The Dips' Bill Irwin, on the other hand, is the second-leading keeper in the league with a 1.15 goal-against average. The Washington defense led by Bob Iarusci, Tommy O'Hara and Jim Steele, has played particularly well during the current streak.
The defense and Irwin had perhaps their best game of the year Wednesday in the 2-1 win over Vancouver. That victory tied the Washington club mark for wins in a season (16).
"It means we've met one of our goals, to be better than last year," Coach Gordon Bradley said. "That is, assming we don't lose out lst seven, which I don't think is likely."
The Dips' leading scorer, Alan Green -- 11 goals, five assists, 27 points -- is in a goal slump, having gone five games without a score . . . Paul Cannell is now second in scoring -- 10 goals six assists, 26 points . . . All Dips are healthy for tonight's game the first time Bradley has had the entire club available since April.