By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2001
The season is only two games old, but it isn't too early for coach Alfonso Mondelo to make lineup changes.
Hampered by possible season-ending injuries to defenders Steve Trittschuh and Chad McCarty, as well as the possible loss of midfielder Steve Ralston this weekend to U.S. national team duties, Mondelo is looking for replacements.
It didn't help that his three-defender lineup last week caused gaping holes in the defense that resulted in several Columbus scoring opportunities. Mondelo must go back to the drawing board with his defense, which appeared to be the most promising in the preseason.
"We might have to readjust ourselves a little bit," Mondelo said. "The idea was to play with three in the back, but with the injuries that we've had, we can't afford to get into a gunfight every single game. We can't rely on scoring four goals to win every game.
"We have to make some adjustments, which might mean taking a player out of the top and moving him in the back, especially when we go on the road and have to be more defensive-minded and play a counterattacking game. We want to play a wide-open game, but for that to happen we have to be more solid defensively. Right now we're not."
Mondelo said the likely scenario Saturday would be to insert reserve defender Kalin Bankov in the lineup and take out a midfielder, possibly Kevin Anderson. Rookie Craig Demmin, John Maessner and Ritchie Kotschau should remain.
Josh Keller has recovered from a sprained knee and could see his first action of the season.
Mondelo won't know Ralston's status until Thursday, when national team coach Bruce Arena makes his final roster cuts from 29 to 18 for the World Cup qualifying match against Costa Rica on April 25 in Kansas City, Mo.
MONDELO RETURNS: It has been two years since Mondelo coached the MetroStars. He lasted 31 games before resigning with one game left in the 1998 season when the team opted for high profile coach Bora Milutinovic.
Mondelo said his return there is no big deal.
"It's just another game, nothing more than that," he said. "I want to come home with three points. It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction I get, though."
ROWDIES FOR A DAY: As part of the MetroStars' NASL Reunion Weekend, both teams will wear retro NASL uniforms for Saturday's match.
The Mutiny will wear dark green jerseys with lighter green shorts and green and white striped knee socks in honor of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The jerseys will have the Mutiny logo, not the Rowdies.
The MetroStars will wear white replica New York Cosmos jerseys. Team jerseys will be auctioned after the game.
THROW-INS: The Mutiny said an announcement on the sale of the team to the Buccaneers likely will not come this week. It was thought the deal would be solidified last week. ... Saturday's game is the first of four of five on the road. ... New York-New Jersey had three players called up to the national team and could be short-handed. Clint Mathis, Mike Petke and Richie Williams could all be outof Saturday's game.