Malcolm Waldron, the Washington Diplomats' attacking defender, has saved the team at least a half-dozen times this season with exceptionally powerful dead ball kicks. The team leader with 14 goals, Waldron will be forgiven by his teammates if he doesn't take a shot tonight in a 7:30 game against Chicago at RFK Stadium.

Waldron will be concentrating on defense. He will be assigned to mark the Sting's Karl-Heinz Granitza, the league's fifth-leading scorer. With starting center back Peter Carr and defensive specialist Eddie Colquhoun out of the Washington lineup with injuries, Coach Ken Furphy said yesterday Waldron will move to center back (from his normal sweeper back position) to defend Granitza.

"Not many players in this league have his knack for scoring," Waldron said. "He backs in a lot and uses his body. Obviously, this is one of the toughest assignments a defender could have."

The Dips beat Chicago, 2-1, June 14, with Colquhoun shouting out Granitza in a rugged Comiskey Park game. But Chicago, with the second-best record in the league, has won eight of its last nine games and has the longest winning streak (eight games) in the league this season.

Granitza is Chicago's Giorgio Chinaglia. He plays alongside former Detroit Express winger Pato Margetic and Arno Steffenhagen, the league's 11th-leading scorer -- a front line described by some in the Cosmos' organization as the best in the league.

The Dips, still battling for a playoff position, desperately need a solid defensive performance from Waldron and a victory over the Sting if they hope to catch second-place Montreal for an automatic berth.

Waldron is excited at tonight's chance to earn some praise for his overlooked defensive play.

"The key to defensing Granitza," Colquhoun said, "isx to shut off the passes that come in to him. If Karl-Heinz gets the ball where he wants it, even a good defender can't stop him." Waldron plans to use his quickness by playing for more interceptions. "I'll give him that extra yard because I'm a little quicker than his is," Waldron said.

Waldron's mobility explains his willingness to attack upfield with the midfielders in a manner uncommon to defenders.

"He feels confident in going forward because he has the speed and agility to get back on defense," said goalkeeper Jim Brown. "Even when we've been playing poorly the last few weeks, Waldron has scored goals."

Brown, who has faced almost every hard shooter in the league, says only Granitza, Fort Lauderdale's Teofilo Cubillas and Vancouver's Peter Lorimer can kick a ball as hard as Waldron. "They can bend the ball around a wall," said Brown, "but the thing that Waldron beats you with is pure speed."

On dead ball kicks -- direct free kicks and penalty chances -- Waldron is one of the best in the league. He possesses a right-footed shot that Brown calls "in the 90-95 mph range." Only three of Waldron's 14 goals have come off live ball situations. Only one has been assisted.