By GREG AUMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 5, 2001
TAMPA -- Three days before its opener, the Mutiny took a major loss Wednesday when defender Steve Trittschuh, a starter in all 32 games last season, broke his leg in practice.
Trittschuh, who turns 36 this month, was one of seven MLS players to appear in every game last season. He will miss 6-12 weeks while his right fibula heals. He should be back for the season's final two months, plus the playoffs. "He was the best player in preseason for us," first-year coach Alfonso Mondelo said. "Hopefully, we're getting all the injuries out of the way early."
Mondelo said there was no contact with other players. Trittschuh's shoe was caught in the grass while he went for a tackle. The Mutiny opens 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Dallas.
The Mutiny was prepared to play without Craig Demmin, a 29-year-old first-round pick who sprained a knee ligament early in preseason. Demmin returned to practice this week and is day-to-day. He could hurry his comeback to avoid the defense playing down two starters.
The next option likely is shifting defender Joe Addo, who has played midfield this preseason, to his old position.
TWO SELECTED: Steve Ralston and Ritchie Kotschau are in a pool of 40 players chosen by U.S. coach Bruce Arena to be considered for the national team's World Cup qualifier April 25 against Costa Rica in Kansas City.
Ralston, 26, has played six games with the national team, but never before in competition this intense. Kotschau, 25, never has played with the national team. Mondelo surprised them with the news Wednesday afternoon.
SNUBBED: General manager Bill Manning, speaking at the team's "Meet the Mutiny" preseason lunch, said he read on the league's official Web site (mlsnet.com) that former Dallas coach Dave Dir has predicted the Mutiny will finish last in the Central Division.
"He's going to be the first person I will remind about this when we're in Colorado playing for a championship," Manning said.
STILL A FAN: Count rookie forward Ali Curtis among those cheering loudest when Duke's men's basketball team won the NCAA title Monday night. Curtis, who will graduate in May, watched from Tampa but said he felt a special bond.
Curtis, who has a double major in political science and sociology, said the soccer and basketball programs at Duke are close because, in recent years, a soccer player has been among the walk-ons filling out the basketball team's bench. Curtis, whom the Mutiny selected with the No. 2 pick in February's SuperDraft, said he related especially to senior Shane Battier.
"We were both coming in from high school in Michigan with a lot of expectations," Curtis said.