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Fractured Mutiny tries to end feud

Valderrama fight at practice is the latest problem in a frustrating season of losses and red cards.

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 2, 2001


TAMPA -- Mutiny coach Alfonso Mondelo likens Tuesday's fight between Carlos Valderrama and Eric Quill to an argument among family members. Over the past two months, the Mutiny has become one dysfunctional family.

Valderrama, who has played the role of bully big brother perfectly this season, will sit out tonight's match against Kansas City for spitting on Miami's Ian Bishop. He received a red card, the fourth time this short season that a Mutiny player has received a red card.

Then came his fight with Quill, whom he punched after Quill had a run-in with rookie Albert Munoz at practice. Valderrama also took a swing at midfielder Josh Keller.

Forward Mamadou Diallo is serving the final game of a three-game suspension for trying to fight a fan May 12 at Colorado. Diallo has missed five games because of red cards and disciplinary suspensions.

The father figure in this family feud is Mondelo. He was brought in to guide a strong team to an MLS Cup championship. Instead, the season has headed south fast because of injuries and bad chemistry.

Has Mondelo lost control?

"It was just a flare-up," Mondelo said. "It happens. It happens with every team. It's like a family. You have an argument and then you move on with it."

Quill said he has moved on, although he hasn't spoken with Valderrama and likely never will.

"It's just been swept under the rug, basically," Quill said. "There's been no apologies. I don't expect one, and I won't give one either. It was a heat of the battle type thing, but what he did was totally uncalled for. What am I going to do?

"I think it just opens our eyes to what's going on around here. Everybody's frustrated. Just when you think it can't get any worse, things like this happen. Who's to say this is the worst thing. It depends on how each person takes it."

The Mutiny's 2-6-1 record is embarrassing for a team that was supposed to have enough veteran talent and depth to be one of Major League Soccer's elite. But early injuries to defenders Steve Trittschuh and Chad McCarty, and Diallo's problems, have contributed to the team's slowest start since 1998.

The Mutiny hasn't won in six games.

"We had a meeting and let a little bit of the frustration out," Mondelo said. "We can't let the frustration get the best of us. We have to turn that frustration around into something positive. We're going through a rough time, but that rough time isn't going to last forever."

General manager Bill Manning, who hired Mondelo to replace Tim Hankinson, promises changes. He's actively looking for a forward to complement Diallo, or perhaps fill in for Diallo if there is another disciplinary action.

"One thing we're not going to do is trade away too much to get somebody," Manning said. "We don't want to load up on defenders, for example, and then when our defenders come back we have too many guys back there."

Neither Valderrama nor Mondelo appears to be on the verage of leaving the team. "Some of the things that have happened have been bad luck," Manning said. "But what we can't have are the things that we bring on ourselves. Carlos is aware of that. The team is aware of that."

In the short-term, the Mutiny faces defending MLS Cup champion Kansas City without Diallo and Valderrama. Tampa Bay is 0-4 when Diallo has not played.

Trittschuh may return tonight, at least for 45 minutes, which could provide some stability. But Trittschuh said regardless of past problems, the team should remain together.

"It's weird," Trittschuh said. "Everything went well last year. We had a good team, and this is almost the same team. You can use all the excuses you want, Chad and I being out, the suspensions, but you still have to play and stick together."

Tonight: Mutiny vs. K.C.

WHEN/WHERE: 7; Raymond James Stadium, Tampa.

TV/RADIO: ESPN2; WWBA-AM 1040, WAMA-AM 1550 (Spanish).

RECORDS: Wizards 4-4-1, Mutiny 2-6-1.

COACHES: Wizards -- Bob Gansler. Mutiny -- Alfonso Mondelo.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Wizards -- F Roy Lassiter, F Onandi Lowe, G Tony Meola, D Peter Vermes, M Kerry Zavagnin. Mutiny -- M Steve Ralston, G Scott Garlick, D Ali Curtis, M Josh Keller, M/F Eric Quill.

NOTES: Mutiny D Steve Trittschuh was taken off injured reserve Thursday and could play tonight. He has missed the first nine games with a broken right fibula. M Carlos Valderrama and F Mamadou Diallo are out because of a red card and disciplinary suspension, respectively. Kansas City forward Mo Johnston is doubtful with a strained neck. D Mike Burns is probable with a left hamstring strain. Mondelo said he likely will use a 4-4-2 alignment to compensate for Valderrama's absence, with Ralston, Jair, Keller and Quill used in the midfield. Lassiter, a Mutiny player from 1996 through part of 1998, has six goals and five assists against the Mutiny since being traded. He played for D.C. United and Miami before joining Kansas City this season. The Mutiny is 0-3-1 at home; the Wizards are 1-4 on the road. The first 5,000 fans receive a rain poncho.

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