The season that couldn't possibly get any worse deteriorated to another level yesterday as the Washington Diplomats concluded their home schedule with a 4-0 loss to the Miami Freedom at the RFK Stadium auxiliary field.

The Diplomats (5-13) were missing seven players and had the minimum number (11) available for their eighth straight American Soccer League loss and their 11th defeat in the last 12 matches.

"It's been tough all season," said Coach Stojan Nikolic, who replaced John Ellinger in May. "We shouldn't finish like this at home. We played well the first 20 minutes but we didn't score on our chances."

Washington, which won the 1988 ASL championship and started this season 4-2, will end the year with road games against Fort Lauderdale Saturday and Miami Aug. 3.

ASL teams have 18-player rosters, but the Diplomats' squad has changed and dwindled since May, when Ellinger resigned and former players complained about mismanagement and paychecks that were late or returned for insufficient funds. In all, 29 players have been with the team this season.

Forward Drago Dumbovic and goalkeeper Vojislav Stanisic, indoor league players who were signed in June, were waived Friday; defender Nam Ki Hong left the team two weeks ago; midfielder Marcelo Claros and defender Mike Stankovic were suspended for accumulating yellow cards; forward Mirko Castillo is in Florida for unspecified reasons and midfielder Jose Melendez's whereabouts were unknown.

When Carlos Coreas injured his right leg early in the second half, the Diplomats used 10 players until the former El Salvadoran professional returned 10 minutes later.

Asked about the future of the franchise, Diplomats owner Julio Pinon said: "Something will happen in two or three weeks. We will see." He wouldn't specify.

However, the owners of the Washington area's three ASL teams -- the Diplomats, Washington Stars and Maryland Bays -- indicated last month that they have had preliminary discussions about a merger.

The Diplomats have the league's worst record and are last in the Southern Division. Ian Fairbrother and Steve Kinsey scored first-half goals and Laszlo Barna scored twice in the second half as Miami (6-10) broke a six-game losing streak.



GOALS: Fairbrother 17:21, Kinsey 26:10, Barna 60:50, 82:45.

ASSISTS: Kinsey, Fairbrother.

SHOTS: Miami 16, Washington 16.

SAVES: Miami: Johnston 2, Guimaraes 2; Washington: Westcoat 7.