"Call this win a building block, not a corner-turner. The last three times we thought we had turned a corner we ran into a brick wall when we got around it ." --Andy Dolich, general manager of Diplomats

The Washington Diplomats may not have turned a corner with their 2-1 win in Memphis Saturday night, but they took a large step forward on a season that so far has been filled largely with signs of retreat.

Any win on the road is significant for a team that is 3-10 away from home. But this one was special, because Memphis plays the kind of game -- very physical -- that has bothered the Dips all season.

"People have criticized us for not being able to handle the tough teams," Dolich said. "They said we were intimidated by teams like Tulsa and Toronto. If we were ever going to be intimidated, it was by this team. But we weren't. I think that means something."

The continued excellent play of john Cruyff means something, too. Still playing with a painful right thigh bruise and hobbled by a first half kick in the ankle, Cruyff assisted on both Washington goals.

"Johan is so important to us right now," said Coach Gordon Bradley. "We redesigned the offense in May so that everyting centers around him. You can't do that with an average player but you can do that with him.

"When he was out hurt, we couldn't restructure the offense again. But we didn't have him there to act as the catalyst."

Saturday, Cruyff was the catalyst, setting up Alan Green for his 19th goal in the first half and Tony Crescitelli for the winning goal in the 78th minute.

The Dips, 10-13, are in second place in the NASAL National Conference East with 99 points. They are in a good position to solidify their chances for a playoff spot and second place the next two weeks with four straight home games, beginning Wednesday against Tampa Bay. After that, division rival Rochester, Tulsa and division rival Toronto visit RFK.

Green removed himself from the game Saturday with a pulled thigh muscle as a precautionary measure. He should be healthy Wednesday. Cruyff is also all right and Wim Jansen is likely to be ready for the Rowdies . . . Dips expect a crowd of more than 15,000 Wednesday.