By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 25, 2001
It wasn't supposed to be this way for coach Alfonso Mondelo. He was supposed to fine-tune the team, maybe make a change here or there, and turn Tampa Bay into an MLS Cup contender.
Then came injuries to defenders Chad McCarty and Steve Trittschuh and now the loss of forward Mamadou Diallo to a red-card suspension and possibly to Senegal national team duties. Mondelo has been forced to go deep into his bench in the first month of the season.
In Saturday's 3-1 win over the Metro-Stars, the Mutiny allowed 21 shots, 10 on goal, despite being a player up when Pedro Alvarez was sent off in the 28th minute with his second yellow card.
Mondelo hinted he may move Joe Addo back to defense and replace him with Jair at defensive midfield for Saturday's home match against Chicago. Other than that, he is nearly out of options for the defense.
"You have to keep tinkering," Mondelo said. "Ideally we would've had everybody healthy and we could just fine-tune the team. But now we have to make changes. We're winning, and that's the bottom line, but not the way I see this team playing. They're capable of playing better. If we're really going to make a run at it, we're going to have to tighten up defensively."
Offensively, the Mutiny may feel the loss of Diallo for longer than the game he will sit out Saturday for the red card. Diallo said he likely will play for the Senegal national team in its May 6 World Cup qualifier at Egypt.
"It's not for sure yet," Diallo said. "But I think that I will play." That means he would miss the May 5 game at Chicago.
Mondelo said he may use a one-forward alignment against the Fire, with Ali Curtis alone up front. Rookies Gus Kartes and Devin Barclay could also see playing time in Diallo's absence.
"It just gives somebody else on the roster a chance to prove themselves," Mondelo said. "If this team is to go far this year, everyone's got to contribute."
SPEAKING OF THE RED CARD: Diallo wasn't happy about getting ejected in the final minutes against New York/New Jersey. He has a feud with defender Mike Petke that started last season when Diallo collided with goalkeeper Mike Ammann.
Diallo was carded for a tackle from behind on Petke.
"(Petke) talks too much," Diallo said. "He was talking all week. I went for the ball, and then he stood up and fell down. It wasn't a red card."
HOUSER'S DAY: Retired defender Chris Houser will be honored during Saturday's match. Houser joined the Mutiny in 1998 and was active in community relations. He was forced out of the league this month because of colitis, the ailment that kept him out of all but nine games in 1999.
Houser played 24 games as a rookie, earning the nickname "The Undertaker" for his physical style. After recovering from colitis, Houser fell out of favor with former coach Tim Hankinson and played in three games last season.