The addition of Johan Cruyff to the Washington Diplomats starting lineup solves many problems for the Dips: it gives them depth at midfield; it gives them a field general and ensures that the men up front will have many chances to score.
It does not, however, solve one unforeseen problem: three major injuries to the defense. With the season opener in Tampa Bay only 48 hours away, Coach Gordon Bradley finds himself desperately trying to swing a deal for a defender. He has lost three men who were starters at various times last season.
First, Jim Steele, last year's captain went down with a knee injury during an indoor game. It required surgery and he may not play this season.
Then, Don Droege broke a foot during early drills in February in RFK Stadium. He is running again but will not play until May at the earliest.
And, two weeks ago in an exhibition game, Mike Dillon tore ligaments in his ankle. He probably out for the season.
That leaves the Diplomats with two returning starters, Bob Iarusci and Tommy O'Hara, the two men who were the backbone of the defense last season.
Bradley will be forced to start two natural midfielders, Carmine Marcantonio and Gary Darrell, on defense Saturday, although each has had defensive experience.
Bradley could opt to move newly acquired Wim Jansen from midfield to defense and could start Sakib Viteskic in Jansen's place. But yesterday he seemed more inclined to go with Darrell.
Bradley has been trying to trade Joe Horvath, last year's second leading scorer, for a defender ever since Dillon was hurt.
"I can't understand it," Bradley said yesterday. "I would think there would be interest in a player of Horvath's caliber in this league but there isn't. I can't get any kind of deal working for him."
Bradley said he had been on the verge of making a deal for a defender Tuesday. "The deal was made for 10 minutes," he said. "I had the man I wanted and then the club changed its mind."
There are deals Bradley could make to get a defender before kickoff Saturday but they do not appeal to him. "I'm not going to make a desperation move," he said. "Even though we're not going to get any of the three injured players back soon I don't want to make a move out of panic that's going to hurt the team later."
Right now, Bradley is likely to start Cruyff, Sonny Askew, Jansen and Juan Jose Lozano at midfield, with last year's leading scorer, Alan Green, and Bobby Stokes up front. Bill Irwin will be in goal.
"I would rather not change the midfield alignment unless I have to," said Bradley, starting his third season as coach in Washington. "I've been very pleased with the play of the mid-field throughout the training camp."
Ane Mihailovich, a backup defender the past two seasons, has been traded to the San Jose Earthquakes for No. 1 draft pick in 1982. Bob Stetler, backup goalkeeper the last three seasons, has gone to Memphis for No. 1 pick in 1985. Andries Maseko -- half of the Dips' South African connection with Kenneth Mokgojoa the last two seasons -- is working out with San Jose. Earthquake General Manager John Carbray, formerly of the Dips, will probably sign him. If he does, Bradley will probably ask for another draft pick in return.
"I'm trying to acquire as many draft picks as possible," Bradley said. "We're going to need more American players in the future."
Bradley also said that he is hoping that Eric Martin, who failed to come back from a broken leg at age 34, will be hired by the club to coach the boalies and to work in community relations. Martin has worked with backup goalie Fragan Radovich throughout training camp and Bradley said the 23-year-old had made "great progress" working with Martin. [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] end of it