The Washington Diplomats built a two-goal lead on scores by Clive Haywood and Trevor Hebberd midway through the second half and held on to beat the Atlanta Chiefs, 2-0, yesterday before 6,003 at RFK Stadium.

It was the seventh shutout of the year for Washington goaltender Jim Brown, a record matched only by Jan Van Beveren of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Dips' record rose to 14-15 and their playoff chances improved substantially.

"We got two goals ahead again, but this time we managed to hold on to the lead," said Diplomat Coach Ken Furphy, alluding to Washington's 3-2 loss to Chicago Wednesday, the third time this season the team had blown a two-goal lead. "I was anxious about it until the end."

The Chiefs, 17-12 and winners of eight of their last 11 games, lost Friday night in Calgary. They spent most of Saturday on airplanes or in airports en route to Washington, and it showed in their sluggish performance on the field.

"We were shattered. We were just wiped out," said the Chiefs' Keith Furphy, son of the Washington coach who has yet to beat his father's team.

Playing aggressively from the start, Washington dominated play during the first half but failed to score, thanks in no small measure to superb goaltending by Atlanta's Graham Tutt. He made five saves in that period, including a diving block of a penalty kick by Malcolm Waldron at 14:05.

It was Waldron's first missed penalty kick of the season after five successes. The Diplomats were awarded the kick after Don Nardiello was tripped in the box by Atlanta's Carl Strong.

"It should have been 4-0 at the half," said the elder Furphy. "There was one surge when we could have scored three goals and I thought, 'Not again.' "

Washington's first score came at 62:23, when Haywood kicked the ball into the net from five yards out on assists from Waldron and David Bradford.

On a crossing pass from Waldron, Hebberd barely flicked the ball with his head, and it bounced toward Atlanta's Don Droege, who was standing directly in front of the goal.

"The ball came across on the right hand side, and I could see he (Droege) was going to miscontrol it," said Haywood. "So I slid in behind him and kicked it into the net."

The second score came 11 minutes later at 73:34, when Nardiello took the ball down the right side, then passed it on the ground to the center, where Hebberd scored easily.

"It was exactly the same as a goal in the game previous to this -- I think it was Chicago," said Nardiello. "I took it on the outside and then crossed it to the center."

In recording his seventh shutout, Brown made only three saves, all of them in the second half. Not until 35:44, when Strong kicked the ball a foot wide to the right of the goal from 20 yards out, did the Chiefs even get a shot on goal. There was only one other Atlanta shot on goal during the first half, and that was wide to the left.

"I thought the lads played really well out there today, but when we didn't score in that first half, I thought, 'Here we go again,' " said Brown.

"Everybody had a man-to-man job to do, and we knocked the ball around instead of running, running, running.

"In the first half, I didn't have any work to do, and that can be bad because you lose your concentration and pretty soon the ball is in the net."

In the second half, the Chiefs outshot the Dips, 8-6, but Brown's three saves, combined with inaccurate Atlanta kicking that sent the ball wide and over the goal, saved the day for Washington.

At 82:27 it appeared Atlanta had a certain score when Keith Furphy dribbled the ball into the penalty area and unleashed a powerful kick straight at the goal. But Brown dived in front of the ball for the save.

"We did look sluggish out there," said Atlanta Coach David Chadwick. "I don't want to make excuses, but we played a very tough game in Calgary Friday night, and then we were traveling all day yesterday. We didn't arrive in Washington until 12:30 last night."

Conspicuous by his absence from the Washington lineup once again was Dutch star Johan Cruyff, who has a groin injury.