Coach Gordon Bradley said yesterday that the Washington Diplomats will have to make a "major trade or sign another defensive player" within the next few days, because of injuries.
Bradley is looking for at least one experienced defender following the loss of center back Mike Dillon.
Dillon, a two-year Dips' starter and eight-year North American Soccer League veteran, broke an ankle Wednesday night during the Dips' 2-1 exhibition victory over Memphis. It was at first thought the durable, aggressive Dillon would be out for six to eight weeks, but X-rays yesterday revealed major damage to the ankle, fibula and ligaments.
Washington already had lost sweeper Jim Steele, who broke his leg while playing indoor soccer, and defender Don Droege, who broke a bone in his foot during a workout.
"We weren't looking for any defenders before Droege got hurt," said Bradley. "We felt we were set back there. Now with Mike out, we've got a problem. Right now, I don't have anyone in mind, but we have to do something. And we have to do it soon."
Washington has two preseason games remaining before returning home to prepare for the season opener. Bradley said he will use several draft choices along with stalwarts Bobby Iarusci, Tommy O'Hara, Carmen Marcantonio and Gary Darrell in those games.
"We will give playing time to as many players as we can," Bradley said. "We could play with the players we have but we would be concerned about the center with both Steele and Dillon out. I don't know the availability of any players around the league right now. I haven't had time to think about it. This (Dillon's injury) "was unexpected."
The defense, anchored by Dillon and Steele, ranked among the stingiest in the NASL last season.
Dillon said his ankle was broken as he attempted to play a ball back to goalie Bill Irwin.
"I was preparing to kick the ball to Billy when a player bumped me," said Dillon. "It was unintentional. His momentum carried him into me. My ankle got caught under by body when I fell. I knew it was broken when I went down. It had been a good camp for me before this happened."
Dillon, who was flown home yesterday, will be operated on by team surgeon Carl McCarty.
"This is very disappointing," added Bradley, whose team was eliminated in the first round of the league playoffs last year.
Washington opens the regular season March 29 at home against Tampa Bay: