Ali Curtis, always a forward, starts on defense, and that's just one change for tonight's game with Miami.
By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 26, 2001
TAMPA -- If the Mutiny looks a little strange in tonight's rematch with Miami, it is normal. This has been one strange season.
Yes, that's rookie forward Ali Curtis playing left back. Yes, that's ironman Steve Ralston in street clothes. Yes, that's self-described journeyman Scott Cannon playing right back for the second time this year.
Mutiny coach Alfonso Mondelo has not used the same starting lineup in any of eight games. That is because of a rash of injuries and forward Mamadou Diallo's five games worth of suspensions.
Perhaps the most unusual occurrence was Saturday in Miami. Ralston was red-carded for a deliberate hand ball and will miss his first game for reasons other than injury or national team duties.
"I've never had a red card, ever," Ralston said. "I've only had about four or five yellow cards. When I did it, it was just a reaction. When the referee reached in his back pocket I thought, "Please let it be yellow, please let it be yellow.' But it wasn't."
To make things worse, Ralston's parents traveled from St. Louis to visit him in Tampa for 10 days. They will wait to see him play June 2 against Kansas City.
"I don't know what I'm going to do (today)," Ralston said. "I guess I'll have to ask Mamadou and Tritt (injured defender Steve Trittschuh). I'm used to a regular game-day routine at home, but now I can go fishing if I want to. It's weird."
Defender John Maessner will slip into Ralston's spot at right midfield. The biggest on-field change, however, is Curtis. A forward throughout his career at Duke, he'll play defense for the first time.
"It's something we figured we'd try," Mondelo said. "We weren't happy with the way the left side was working. Because of his natural style of play he's the kind of player that can do it. He's at a position where he can use his strength, which is speed and aggressiveness."
Cannon, 32, makes a return appearance. His trip through MLS has been circuitous.
He played for Colorado in 1996 but was released after the season. He played for Richmond of the A-League in 1997, the Columbus Crew in '98 and took 1999 off. He joined Richmond in 2000 and trained with New England and Dallas this preseason.
He didn't catch on with either and after stalled contract negotiations with Richmond, he joined the A-League's Charleston Battery. Then came the Mutiny's defensive injury problems and Cannon was called up for the April 28 game against Chicago.
The Mutiny wanted to claim Cannon as a discovery player, which is a player a club finds and petitions the league to sign. But Dallas also claimed Cannon and because the Mutiny had a better record, the Burn was awarded the rights to Cannon.
"I didn't want to go there," Cannon said. "I asked them how they were planning on using me and they wanted me in a reserve role. At my age, I wanted to fight for a spot. I'm getting a chance to fight for a spot here."
Dallas gave up the rights to Cannon. Whether he stays in the starting lineup when Chad McCarty and Trittschuh return is uncertain.
"I've been your classic journeyman," Cannon said. "I got waived by Colorado the first year and when you get waived by the worst team it doesn't look good on your resume. Then there was the A-League in Richmond, then back to Columbus and then I took a year off when my first child was born. Man, I should write a book."
Mondelo has had to deal with the lineup turmoil weekly. He doesn't get Diallo back until June 6 against Dallas. Until then, he remains optimistic.
"We need a spark," Mondelo said. "We've got to find some kind of spark. And when we do I am convinced this team will go on a winning streak."
WHEN/WHERE: 7; Raymond James Stadium, Tampa.
TV/RADIO: Sunshine; WWBA-AM 1040, WAMA-AM 1550 (Spanish).
RECORDS: Fusion 6-1-1, Mutiny 2-5-1.
COACHES: Fusion -- Ray Hudson. Mutiny -- Alfonso Mondelo.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Fusion -- D Pablo Mastroeni, F Alex Pineda Chacon, G Nick Rimando, F Diego Serna, M Preki. Mutiny -- M Carlos Valderrama, M John Maessner, G Scott Garlick, D Ali Curtis, M Josh Keller. NOTES: Miami defeated Colorado on Wednesday night 1-0 and has won six of eight matches. The Fusion is off to its best start and is tied with New York/New Jersey for most points (19). Serna and Preki did not play against Colorado but are expected to be in the lineup tonight. Mutiny F Mamadou Diallo is serving the second of his three-game disciplinary suspension. F Gus Kartes is questionable with a sprained left ankle. The Mutiny has a four-game winless streak and has not won at home this season (0-2-1). This is the last regular-season match between the state rivals this season. The first 10,000 fans will receive a pack of 2001 Mutiny trading cards. Fans who bring at least one canned good will receive a pass to enter the field after the game for an autograph session.