It was midway through the first half and Giorgio Chinaglia, the Cosmos' menacing superscorer, was restless, weary of finding the body of Diplomat defender Peter Carr everywhere he turned.

With his back to the net, Chinaglia received a pass and tried to bully through Carr to set up a shot. But the Dip defender, three inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter, held his ground with the help of a well-placed elbow.

After flubbing the shot, an angered Chinaglia turned to Carr and said something to the effect of, "If you touch me with an elbow again, I'll kill your butt."

The next time Chinaglia got the ball, Carr tripped him.

That afternoon in Giants Stadium two weeks ago, Carr held Chinaglia scoreless for the first time in 14 Cosmos home games. "That's the best I've ever seen Chinaglia marked by anybody," a Cosmos official said.

The 29-year-old Carr is one of the most intense players in the North American Soccer League. He's not much of a scoring threat but usually draws the opposition's best scorer and does an excellent job. Carr's nickname, "Biff," explains his on-the-field character.

"The nickname originated from a cartoon character who used to go around punching people playfully, or 'biffing' people," Carr said yesterday. "My strength in soccer is tackling people (sliding into a player's feet and stripping him of the ball). I play the game hard, but fair."

Carr's style had been described as rough, but he calls it "controlled aggression."

"I love to get psyched up and shout at my teammates on the field," Carr said. "It might be a little more necessary this season than in the past because at 29, I'm the vet of the team. I have to look after these boys. They're just babies."

The babies Carr refers to are fellow defenders Ivan Belfiore and David McGill, both 20. "I shout at them constantly on the field to concentrate. Sometimes, I'm going so crazy they think I'm going to come after them. It's just my way, though. My bark is worse than my bite."

Carr's chiding is largely responsible for the rapid improvement of McGill and Belfiore. McGill greets Carry by raising a clenched first and screaming "Concentrate!"

"David does that to tease me for always screaming to him to concentrate," Carr said. "But by teasing me that way, I know I've won my battle. Concentration is in their minds."

Carr's own concentration has been almost flawless this season. Besides shutting down several of the league's high-powered scorers, he has made two plays that should be included on the Diplomats' season highlight film.

Against the Cosmos, with Francois Van der Elst's shot bounding over goalkeeper Jim Brown into the Diplomat net, Carr hurdled two players to clear the ball off the goal line, saving what was then a score less tie. He duplicated the move Sunday at Tampa.

Born in Ferry Hill, England, Carr says he never wanted to pursue soccer as a career, but found when he was a teen-ager that he couldn't make a living as a lion-tamer.

He signed as an apprentice professional with Darlington of the English League when he was 15 years old, and was in all four divisions before playing one season in Scotland's First Division. For three years Carr played with the New England Tea Men (now in Jacksonville) before joining the Dips just before the start of the season.

"I've grown like the NASL," he said. "I alwasy tell stories to the younger lads about the old days in England when you had to make an appointment to see your coach and couldn't talk to reporters without permission. Can you imagine, not being able to talk to your coach?"

During games, Carr is so intense he admits having problems calming down afterward. "I still like to get nervous before games. So it's difficult for me to relax at times. I play backgammon or golf or chess -- anything to stay quiet. r

"But after I finally relax, I'm a lot like (Paul) Cannell. We're both from the north of England. Anybody from there would make anybody else a cup of tea."

Cannell missed both practices yesterday with an apparent case of food poisoning, but is expected for practice Thursday or Friday.