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Players, staff trying to plot the next move

Some players will go to other teams in a dispersal draft on Friday.

By RODNEY PAGE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 9, 2002

Eric Quill completed a workout with some Mutiny teammates Tuesday morning when he found out he no longer had a team. It wasn't until Quill listened to a cell-phone message that he found out the Mutiny was no more.

"It's kind of strange," Quill said. "I wish they would have made this decision a long time ago."

Many involved with the Mutiny and soccer in the area are left to wonder what comes next. For the players, there is a dispersal draft Friday morning.

Those taken in the draft will have two days to get to their new teams before training camps open on Monday. The 27 front-office employees are out of a job. Some could land with MLS' other 10 teams or with the league office in New York City.

Coach Perry Van Beck has a one-year contract with the league, as does general manager Bill Manning. Both figure to be reassigned this season.

"It's going to get a little more depressing as the days go on," Manning said. "We had a good group of people here. I knew about this Monday and I couldn't sleep. When you give so much to something it's difficult to have it taken away."

Farrukh Quraishi, the Mutiny's first GM in 1996 and a former member of the Rowdies in the North American Soccer League, said contraction is a blow.

"It's sad for Tampa," Quraishi said. "It's a killer for soccer in the community. But from a business standpoint it makes sense, and if it makes the league stronger in the long run then that's what they have to do."

MLS commissioner Don Garber left the door open for an MLS return to Tampa in the future if the league expands. That gives hope to some involved in the local sports scene.

"What we want to do is get some sort of a grassroots campaign going and try to get an ownership group and possibly bring back professional soccer in the next year or two," Tampa Sports Authority Executive Director Henry Saavedra said. "In talking with Don Garber (Tuesday) morning, that was the biggest reason this team isn't here anymore, because there was no local ownership. I think the biggest impact this has is on the 30,000 or so youth organizations in this area."

Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman, who sits on the board of the Tampa Sports Authority, also feels professional soccer isn't done in Tampa.

"They have, I think, cut our community a tremendous break," said Norman. He said the league has invested $30-million in Tampa Bay since 1996, which includes the team, camps and youth league programs.

"(MLS) wants soccer in Tampa," Norman said. "If they didn't, they would totally pull out. So I think that was very encouraging."

Tampa mayor Dick Greco said he understands MLS' decision.

"I assumed soccer would be a big hit in this country and this area," Greco said. "But unless you are producing a championship team or something very special, it's difficult to sell season tickets. There's too many things a person can do in Florida.

"If you've got a stadium that seats 63,000, and you've got 13,000 people, it's hard to get excited. It looks like a little wad of people sitting in these sections."

Mutiny chief operating officer Ed Austin has championed soccer here for more than 20 years. He has been with the Mutiny all six years.

"It's a sad day," Austin said. "I really believe this community needs pro soccer. There's a tradition here. I think the community deserves (a return of pro soccer)."

Contraction certainly ended the Mutiny, and it likely ended defender Steve Trittschuh's career.

"It's kind of unexpected," said Trittschuh, 36, also a former Rowdies player in the American Professional Soccer League. "The league did a good job of keeping this under cover. Nobody knew anything. As for me, I don't think anybody's going to take me (in the dispersal draft). If they do, then my wife and I are going to have to talk about it."

- Times staff writers Bill Varian and Chris Goffard contributed to this report.

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