Johnan Cruyff will start for the Washington Diplomats Wednesday against Toronto, "and that's a promise," Dip Geneal Manager Duncan Hill said yesterday.

Cruyff, who has played only 25 minutes since joining the team on July 1, skipped the team's recent two-game West Coast road trip to stay in Washington and recuperate from late-May groin surgery and a subsequent pulled thigh muscle.

"I am a little nervous," Cruyff said yesterday afternoon. "This is the season opener for me. In many ways it will be very special. The people in Washington have been patient and I would like to play well for them."

Cruyff has been working out at least two hours a day for 10 days in preparation for Wednesday's game -- the first of three straight home contests for the Diplomats.

"Johan did some sprinting and ran a nine-minute mile today," said John Romero, Cruyff's therapist at the Sports Medicine Center in Chevy Chase. "He did some crossover walking and sideways hopping. He's going to work out with the team tomorrow to test lateral movement and ball-handling ability.

"His mobility is fine, his leg strength is good and his forward and backward running is fine. His progress is ahead of schedule," Romero said. "But he still needs to push harder to complete his rehabilitation I want him better than normal."

"It's going very well," Cruyff said. "I've been working hard and I'm happy that I'm improving faster than expected. I'm not having any pain and I feel fine right now."

Cruyff, 34 has said he tried to come back too quickly from surgery. As a result he strained a muscle in his thigh trying to compensate for muscles weakened by the surgery.

He limped around for 25 minutes in his July 1 return against San Diego. But he sat out a July 4 home game against Seattle after deciding the wet RFK grass was too slippery to risk playing. Cruyff has not practiced with the team since July 3.

Hill and Coach Ken Furphy decided it would be best for Cruyff to stay home last week and rehabilitate the pulled muscle. They wanted Cruyff ready for this three-game homestand in which the Dips face Eastern Division opponents Toronto and Montreal (Sunday), then Minnesota on July 25.

Cruyff probably will start at the center midfield position and be flanked by David Bradford and Heinz Wirtz. He will play directly behind the forwards as a striking mdfielder and try to help the Dips' weak offense.

Hill also said yesterday that the team is considering making an exhibition tour of Mexico after the current outdoor season ends.