If possible, Diplomat coach Gordon Bradley would like his team to play with even more enthusiasm Sunday when it closes out the regular season against Minnesota.

"The back-to-back victories against the Cosmos and New England were the best two complete efforts we've had this year," Bradley said. "We played very well, both offensively and defensively, both games.

"I was especially pleased with our second-half effort in the New England game. We're looking for consistency and when you get all 11 players to do that, then you should have a good game."

For the second straight game, the Dips performed up to Bradley's expectations in pounding New England, 4-1, before 19,324, the largest week-night crowd in the club's seven-year history. Washington defeated the three-time NASL champion Cosmos, 2-1, in a shootout in the Meadowlands Sunday night.

The Dips' defense shut down the Cosmos' high-powered attack, including the NASL's leading scorer, Giorgio Chinaglia. With Wim Jansen running the show from his sweeper position. Washington was even tougher Wednesday night in holding the Tea Men to eight shots.

The only Washington player who didn't feel much like celebrating the victory over the Tea Men was Nick Mijatovic. The Dips most consistent defender left the game with a sore back.

"He can play with it," Bradley said. "It's entirely up to him. Nick could probably be out for the rest of the year and again he could play with the bad back. You need horses to keep Nickie out of the lineup so I expect him to try to play. We're applying heat treatments and hoping for the best."

Another player ailing is Johan Cruyff, who was again magnificent as he dealt out two assists and scored a goal to help Washington avenge an earlier 1-0 loss to New England.

"Cruyff was vintage Cruyff against New Engalnd," said Bradley. "He's still a little sore all over from his fall in the Cosmos' game. He's fine and he'll play Sunday."

Bradley said his team will have three incentives Sunday.

"We want to finish 17-15, avenge a bad loss in Minnesota (5-1), and keep our momentum for the playoffs (the Dips' first-round playoff game will be in Washington Wednesday night)," Bradley said.

"Ten weeks ago, who would have thought we had a chance to finish at .500. We gave five goals to Minnesota but we had a bundle of chances to score. We rained shots at them. Some hit the post and the goalie made some amazing saves. We couldn't buy a goal. I think the guys will want to do well against them."

The Dips had 34 shots against New England and could have come away with 10 goals had not Kevin (The Cat) Keelan, 38, risked life and limb to stop some of the Washington point-blank attempts. He had 15 saves.

"We just overpowered them," said Dip striker Tony Crescitelli, who scored twice and now has 13 goals for the year.

Bradley felt so good about the team's win over the Tea Men he gave his players yesterday and today off.

"We'll work out about an hour Saturday," Bradley said. "The lads have played two straight tough games and they deserved some time off. We're going for a big win and the rest should help."