Tampa Bay starters control play; Glasgow Celtic rallies for 2-2 tie.
By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2001
TAMPA -- Friday night's exhibition between the Mutiny and Scottish Premier League leader Glasgow Celtic provided something for all 2,917 fans who piled into the University of Tampa's Pepin/Rood Stadium.
Mutiny fans saw the return of midfielder Carlos Valderrama, who spent most of the off-season in Colombia and didn't arrive in Tampa until Thursday. Valderrama, Major League Soccer's assist leader last season with 26, had two first-half assists in the 2-2 final.
Celtic fans saw their beloved team in a rare appearance on American soil. Glasgow has been in Orlando all week on winter break. Most of the pro-Celtic crowd spent the match waving banners and chanting.
"Let's be honest, 90 percent of the crowd were Celtic fans, so to play well in the first half in front of hostile fans was good for us," said Mutiny goalkeeper Scott Garlick, an avid Celtic fan. "What more could you ask for? Especially after training for only 10 days."
In the first half, it was hard to tell which team was in midseason form and which just started training. The Mutiny got special permission from MLS to practice starting Jan. 8 instead of Feb. 1.
Tampa Bay came out firing and connected in the 15th minute. Valderrama carried the ball into the left corner and crossed the ball. The ball sailed over a leaping Steve Trittschuh, but Steve Ralston was right behind the play and left-footed the ball into the left corner.
That led to a chorus of boos. Celtic fans sat on their hands most of the next 30 minutes. In the 31st minute, Valderrama slotted a pass in midfield onto the feet of Manny Lagos. He never broke stride and scored from 10 yards to make it 2-0, which it remained at halftime.
"Manny Lagos was our man of the match," Mutiny coach Alfonso Mondelo said. "His work rate was outstanding."
Both teams cleared their benches in the second half, and the Mutiny struggled at midfield. Celtic spent most of the time in the Mutiny's half, which led to goals in the 52nd and 60th minutes.
"You just don't want to lose the game, simple as that," Celtic coach Martin O'Neill said. "We came roaring back in the second half and I was proud of them for that. We scored on two smashing goals."
Garlick figured few gave the Mutiny a chance. But he said the strong showing may say something about MLS and the Mutiny.
"This is obviously a no-win situation for them because they're just getting fit and we've got a little more to play for," Garlick said. "I thought we showed the class of MLS and have to be proud."
Valderrama, who signed a two-year contract earlier in the day, played 45 minutes and looked fit.
"I'm just happy to be back with the boys," he said through team interpreter Karloz Tellez.
Valderrama has played 102 games in five seasons with the Mutiny. He was with the team except for 1998 and four games in 1999, when he played with the Miami Fusion.
The Mutiny will not practice again until Feb. 1. Celtic returns to Glasgow today.