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Mutiny in no hurry for spring fling

Unlike most MLS teams, preparations are well under way.

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2001


Most Major League Soccer teams are rushing to get to Fort Lauderdale this weekend to start Spring Training 2001. The Mutiny is not.

Tampa Bay has been practicing since January; it got permission to start early to prepare for an exhibition against Glasgow Celtic Jan. 19. Since then the Mutiny has played exhibitions in Colombia, Bradenton, Brandon and Fort Myers.

While other teams can't wait for some warm weather and competition, the Mutiny will remain in Tampa until Friday before leaving for Fort Lauderdale to play its first game against San Jose.

"It just makes sense for us to stay here," Mutiny general manager Bill Manning said. "There's no reason to put our guys in a hotel for a week when they don't have to. We already have the weather and a nice facility."

The Mutiny will remain at Land O'Lakes Recreation Center. Once in Fort Lauderdale, the team will remain there until its March24 match against Miami.

This is the third year MLS has held spring training in Fort Lauderdale. All 12 teams play three games in nine days. When teams aren't playing, they're working out at various sites.

All training sessions as well as games are open to the public.

For the Mutiny, spring training is a chance to look at different players and schemes. New coach Alfonso Mondelo seeks better defense. He said he hopes to shore up the midfield and have the team give up fewer goals.

Mondelo has experimented with a 3-5-2 scheme as well as a 4-4-2. Last year, former coach Tim Hankinson played most of the season with one forward, but the Mutiny allowed 50 goals and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Spring training games don't count in the standings, but Mondelo said he'll play to win.

"Those three (spring training) games, we will take very seriously," Mondelo said. "We're going to put the best squad together for those games. We will use a 4-4-2 when the game dictates and we'll also use a 3-5-2 at some point. What we want to do is control the midfield."

Mondelo also will want to look at some new players, especially first-round picks Ali Curtis and Craig Demmin. Mondelo said he's impressed with Demmin, a defender, and looking for improvement from Curtis, a forward.

"Craig Demmin has been very solid for us so far," Mondelo said. "He's right where we expected him to be. Ali came in very strong but I think he's struggled a little bit lately with the pace of the game. I think it will take him a little bit of time to get used to the demands of the game."

Forward Eric Quill is coming back from ankle surgery. Midfielder Kevin Anderson is coming back from abductor surgery.

For the rest of the Mutiny players, spring training is a time to wipe off some rust in preparation for the April7 opener at Dallas.

"All of the conditioning part of training is pretty much behind us," defender Chad McCarty said. "In January and February it was tough because there was a lot of conditioning and it was hard for guys to see the finish line. But now we're into March and the season is getting close. Guys can see the finish line."

MLS spring training

WHEN/WHERE: Wednesday-March 24; Lockhart Stadium, Fort Lauderdale.

MUTINY TRAINING FACILITIES: Hilton and Lauderhill Sports complexes, Sunrise.

ADMISSION: Free for games and training sessions.

FORMAT: All 12 teams play three games in nine days. The champion is the team with the most points. If there is a tie, a series of tiebreakers, including head-to-head competition, goal differential and goals scored, will be used.

MUTINY GAMES: Friday -- vs. San Jose, 6; March 20 -- vs. Los Angeles, 6; March 24 -- vs. Miami, 8. (For a complete schedule of spring training matches, check www.mlsnet.com). -- Compiled by Rodney Page.

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