In what would seem to be a promising start for the Washington Diplomats, one of the two teams set to return professional soccer to Washington next April, they played the Honduran national team to a 1-1 tie yesterday in the final game of the inaugural Ambassador Cup before 5,117 at RFK Stadium.

"The level of play here is much better than it used to be," Honduras Coach Ramon Rodriguez said. "This team {the Diplomats} is better than most of the teams that played in the North American Soccer League."

Just as important, the event, which began with two matches Friday night and was witnessed by officials of the newly formed American Soccer League, drew a total of 8,908. This on the same weekend as the Kemper Open and RiverFest '87.

"We are very happy with the way this went," said Diplomats President Julio Pinon, whose team will join the George Mason-based F.C. Washington as the area's ASL entries.

Those feelings were echoed by Diplomats defender Duncan Reynard, whose goal in the 74th minute created the tie.

"I know there were a lot of people in the stands who had come out to see Honduras," he said. "But hopefully, they will come back and support our side in the league next year."

Because of the number of Honduras fans, the game's tone was set before either team took the field. During the second half of the first game -- in which the U.S. under-20 national team defeated the soon-to-be ASL's Cosmopolitan Eagles, 2-0 -- a number of Honduras players, dressed in their uniforms, took seats just above the tunnel to their locker room. As soon as the first white jersey appeared, a roar went up from the crowd.

Honduras heightened the crowd's excitement with an early goal. In the 15th minute, striker Leonel Suazo, who scored twice in the first five minutes of Honduras' 3-1 victory Friday night over the Eagles, broke through with an assist from Jorge Bennett. The crowd was in a frenzy.

"It was a bit eerie," Reynard said. "It seemed like we were playing in Honduras."

The Diplomats then settled things down, but did not seriously threaten Honduras' goal.

The second half developed into a game of relentless Honduras attack and sharp Washington counterattack. But the Diplomats, led by Reynard, Ronnie Simmons, Keith Trehy and Daniel Cabrera, held firm.

"We weren't afraid," Diplomats Coach Hugo Berly said. "In fact, I thought our defense was better than theirs."

Washington's goal developed out of a seemingly routine counter. Reynard collected the ball at midfield and passed it to Rob Ryerson. Ryerson then sent the ball to forward Marcos Casas, who was running along the left wing. Meantime, Reynard had decided to take off down the right side.

Casas, who scored twice in Washington's 3-1 victory Friday night over the U.S. team, found the suddenly open Reynard with a long cross. Reynard dribbled into the penalty area and then cleverly cut the ball back across the goal mouth, past Marvin Henriquez and into the far left corner.