Asked who would replace Carmine Marcantonio in the Diplomat midfield for tonight's match (8 p.m., WTTG-TV 5) against the Rochester Lancers, Washington Coach Gordon Bradley flashed a big smile and answered, "Me."
Bradley obviously is laughing to keep from crying. His team has been nearly obliterated by injuries, starting in the preseason, and the Dips are in serious trouble.
"We don't look too good right now but what else can we do but go out and play," said Washington defender Don Droege, the latest addition to the Washington training room, with a broken nose. "It's a big letdown to go on the road after a loss, especially one at home. We're beginning to feel pretty low about now."
A victory over aggressive Rochester at Holleder Stadium before Washington televiewers (as well as WWDC-AM-1260 listeners) could ease at least one ill -- lack of confidence.
Six losses in seven games have sent the Dips plunging to 4-9 and the National Conference Eastern Division cellar, four points behind the Lancers, who are 6-6 with 49 points. The Cosmos are far ahead with an 11-3 record and 98 points.
In the last two games, Washington has lost midfielders Sonny Askew and Juan Jose Lozano, both of whom suffered broken bones in a 5-2 loss in Chicago; winger Ken Mokgojoa, hospitalized Sunday with a possible broken blood vessel in his left calf, and Marcantonio, with a hanstring pull suffered in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Fort Lauderdale at RFK Stadium.
Droege suffered his broken nose in the second half of the Striker game but remained on the field. He will be fitted with a special nose protector tonight.
Johan Cruyff is still sidelined with a pulled thigh muscle, while at least four teammates play on with minor injuries.
"In all my years in this game, I've never seen anything like this," moaned Bradley following yesterday's practice. "But we can't keep harping on our injury situation. We still have to go out and play.
"Of course we have no choice but to look for a few new players but we won't have them tonight. We have to do the best we can with what we have. When you're 4-9 you forget who you're playing and just go out and work. The little depth we had we've lost."
Washington will at least get Joe Horvath back for tonight's intradivision game. The midfielder sat out the last two games on suspension for his altercation with official Gordon Arrowsmith in the Cosmos game June 1.
Horvath can inject some much needed oomph into Washington's offense. While having played only seven games, he is tied for second with Askew in scoring with eight points. Alan Green has been a one-man striking force for the Dips, scoring 11 of their 23 goals.
Winner of six of its last eight games, Rochester is an extremely physical, wear-you-down team. Washington has not fared well against the Lancers. The dips have lost the last three meetings and dropped six of the seven games played at Holleder Stadium.
Not particularly potent offensively, the Lancers have scored only 17 goals.
The brawny front line of Branko Segota, Pat Ercoli and Mike Stojanovic has accounted for 13 of those.