The Washington Diplomats have sold captain Peter Baralic to the Tulsa Roughnecks in order to pay for Johan Cruyff.

The unexpected transaction was completed 30 minutes before the North American Soccer League's Tuesday midnight (EST) trading deadline.

Baralic, 29, was acquired last December from Tampa Bay for $45,000. He had started every game this season, and was one of the team's most complete players and its fourth-leading scorer.

But according to Dip General Manager Duncan Hill, the cost of paying Cruyff, and the Dutchman's presence as an added midfielder, necessitated the sale of Baralic.

The Dips acquired Cruyff, 34, three weeks ago. The club is facing loses of up to $1 million this season, and needs the cash from the sale -- estimated to be between $60,000 and $100,000 -- to help pay for Cruyff, who will make $175,000 this season.

"Selling Baralic does help (us) afford Cruyff," Hill said yesterday from his hotel room in Portland, where the team played the Timbers last night in the first of two road games. "It is reasonable business to balance the books."

"There's no way we could play Baralic, Cruyff and David Bradford in the midfield together," Hill continued. "Somebody had to go, and obviously, it wasn't going to be Cruyff."

Bradford, a fine playmaker had teamed with Baralic to give the Diplomats one of the better midfields in the league. But the Dips problem the last six weeks has been scoring not creating chances.

"It came down to who's a better player, Baralic or Cruyff," Hill said. "If Cruyff hadn't come in, this wouldn't have taken place. But we couldn't have a veteran international player like Peter Baralic sitting on the bench." h

Cruyff is recovering slowly from groin surgery. Hill promised that Cruyff will assume Baralic's "attacking midfield position, right behind the front line" in the team's next home game, July 15, against Toronto.

"We made a commitment to the fans and so did Johan; he will play against Toronto," said Hill.

Another reason for moving Baralic was the NASL rule that limits the number of foreign players on a roster to 13. With the acquisition of Cruyff, the Dips had 14 foreign players.

"We've been living off the league's good graces for two weeks," Hill said. "A foreign player had to be traded, sold or released."