First-place Miami catches Tampa Bay without Diallo and winless in four games.
By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 19, 2001
It is being billed as the "Florida Derby," a two-game sprint for Major League Soccer bragging rights in the state. Starting tonight in Fort Lauderdale and ending Saturday in Tampa, the Mutiny and Fusion play their only two games against each other despite being a few hundred miles apart.
Thanks to realignment before last season, Tampa Bay and Miami no longer are in the same division. The Mutiny was moved to the newly formed Central Division, and Miami stayed in the East.
Both sides say the rivalry remains alive. Most vocal is Miami coach Ray Hudson, a former player for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the defunct North American Soccer League who played in many games against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
"For me, Tampa has always been like showing a red flag to a bull," Hudson said. "I'm always looking to milk that for all it's worth with my players. I was the same way when we played the Rowdies, and I'll be the same way this week. This means something to us. This is for Florida bragging rights. Our boys are aware of that. We intend to take it to them. Tampa always gives us a hell of a game."
It may not be a fair fight.
The Mutiny stumbles into the match with a four-game winless streak and without forward Mamadou Diallo, who is serving a three-game suspension for berating a fan after Saturday's game at Colorado.
The last time Tampa Bay played without Diallo, April 28 and May 5 against Chicago, it lost both games and didn't come close to scoring. Mutiny coach Alfonso Mondelo said he again will use rookies Ali Curtis and Devin Barclay at forward and give midfielder Carlos Valderrama a more offensive role.
The division-leading Fusion (4-1-1) is one of the hottest teams in the league. Forward Alex Pineda Chacon has been a pleasant surprise, and midfielder Preki has added experience.
Defenders Pablo Mastroeni and Carlos Llamosa and goalkeeper Nick Rimando have made it difficult to score on the Fusion.
"The Fusion's success has been based a lot on their defense," Mondelo said. "They've been very strong all season long, and we know we're going to have a difficult time going through them."
Hudson said he was prepared to play the Mutiny with or without Diallo.
"We just home in on the fact that we'll be playing the Mutiny and Diallo will be playing," Hudson said. "If he isn't playing, then it will be a boost for us because he's such a spearhead to that team. He can beat you just by looking at you. Without him on the team that would be a big impetus for us to feel good about ourselves."
The Mutiny is hoping to turn around a sinking season. Injuries decimated the defense, but all but Chad McCarty and Steve Trittschuh appear healthy again.
"The fact is Mamadou isn't here and some of the young guys are going to have to step up," Mondelo said. "Miami is playing very well right now, but we're going to have to be patient and convert our chances. We may not get too many chances against a team like that."
TV/RADIO: Ch. 38 (tape-delayed starting at 8); WWBA-AM 1040, WAMA-AM 1550 (Spanish).
RECORDS: Mutiny 2-4-1, Fusion 4-1-1.
COACHES: Mutiny -- Alfonso Mondelo. Fusion -- Ray Hudson.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Mutiny -- M Carlos Valderrama, M Steve Ralston, G Scott Garlick, F Ali Curtis, D Craig Demmin. Fusion -- D Pablo Mastroeni, F Alex Pineda Chacon, G Nick Rimando, F Diego Serna, M Preki.
NOTES: Mutiny D Kevin Anderson is still out with a strained hamstring. Fusion F Pete Marino, a former Mutiny player, is out with a torn Achilles' tendon. Mutiny assistant Jim McGeough was fined $250 and suspended for entering the referee's "secure zone" after Saturday's game at Colorado. Mutiny F Gus Kartes did not travel to Miami after playing for the under-20 national team last week. Pineda Chacon has scored five goals in five games and ranks fourth in MLS with 10 points. Rimando has a league-best 0.65 goals-against average in six games. The series is 5-5.