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Missed opportunities cost Mutiny 2-1

Tampa Bay's offensive production falls off in homeopening loss to Columbus.

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 15, 2001


photo
[Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]
Tampa Bay Mutiny midfielder Jair jumps over Columbus Crew midfielder Brian Maisonneuve.
TAMPA -- Mutiny coach Alfonso Mondelo has seen his team play two regular season games, and he's seen two different teams. The team that cranked out four goals in the opener against Dallas was not the team that showed for Saturday's home opener against Columbus.

Thanks to numerous near misses and defensive lapses, Tampa Bay fell to Central Division rival Columbus 2-1 in front of 16,823 at Raymond James Stadium. The loss snapped a seven-game regular season winning streak against the Crew. "This is the other side of the coin," Mondelo said. "We're not as pleased with our performance this week as we were last week, although I am pleased with the effort. We can't afford to miss 10 or 12 easy scoring opportunities."

Tampa Bay (1-1) outshot Columbus (1-0-1) 21-15 and had eight shots on goal. But only one found the net, and that came after the Mutiny already was down by two.

Mondelo's biggest worry was on defense, where three experienced players have been lost to injury and illness in the past two weeks. Rookie Craig Demmin played admirably in his second Major League Soccer game.

Mondelo's review of defenders John Maessner and Ritchie Kotschau was not as glowing.

"I thought we were a little shaky," Mondelo said.

Both of Columbus' goals came with a little help. In the 12th minute, Kotschau got a step behind Crew forward Brian West about 30 yards from goal. West took a pass from John Wilmar Perez and raced inside the 18-yard box. His shot from 16 yards banged off the crossbar and landed just across the goal line to make it 1-0.

That score stood at halftime despite three good opportunities by Mamadou Diallo, including one 30 seconds into the match. There was also a questionable no-call in the 39th minute when it appeared Tampa Bay's Eric Quill was dragged down in the penalty box by Ansil Elcock.

"In all my soccer life I've never seen anything like that," Quill said. "The guy grabbed my jersey."

In the 61st minute, Mutiny midfielder Kevin Anderson tried to clear a header back toward the Tampa Bay goal, but the only player there to receive the ball was Columbus' Dante Washington.

That put Mutiny keeper Scott Garlick on alert, and he got a leg on Washington's first shot about 10 yards from the net. Washington had another shot blocked by Mutiny defenders in front of the goal, but with Garlick out of the picture Wilmar Perez was there for the rebound. His shot from point blank range went past Maessner to make it 2-0.

Anderson was replaced a minute later by Jair, a move Mondelo said he was going to make even before the mistake.

"(The substitution) came a minute too late," he said.

Down two goals with less than 30 minutes to play, the Mutiny relied on a familiar combination to get back in the game. In the 67th minute, Carlos Valderrama lofted a long pass down the right side to a sprinting Steve Ralston.

Ralston caught up to the pass about 25 yards from goal, dribbled a few times, and blasted a shot from 15 yards that found the net untouched. It was Ralston's second goal in as many games and Valderrama's third assist. It also was Valderrama's 100th point as a member of the Mutiny.

"I thought once we scored that goal we'd get some more," Ralston said. "It was just one of those games. We couldn't find the net."

Columbus dodged a few bullets in the final minutes, including near misses by Quill, Kotschau and Tarpon Springs native Gus Kartes, who replaced Ali Curtis at halftime. Kartes swung and missed at a cross in the box in the 88th minute. Kotschau had an open header miss wide right in injury time.

"On opening day we got to the goal four times and had four goals," Mondelo said. "Tonight we had 10 or 12 shots and only one goal. Little chip shots, headers missed, things like that. If you look at the stats we dominated, but we didn't dominate in the most important thing, the score."

* * *

UP NEXT: Mutiny at N.Y./N.J. Metrostars, 3 Saturday, ESPN2.

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