By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 13, 2001
General manager Bill Manning has read the e-mails. He has taken the phone calls and heard the voice mail.
The complaints about the Mutiny's 2-9-1 start are not falling on deaf ears. But don't expect Manning to act on all the suggestions he has heard from fans. It's not likely he's going to fire himself.
"Oh, yeah," Manning said. "They want the players changed, they want the coach changed, they want the GM changed. It's still a long season, but we've got to turn this thing around. It's not what we pictured coming out of spring training."
The picture has changed from a Picasso to Dogs Playing Poker.
Manning has promised things will change if the Mutiny doesn't straighten up. But no trades have been made. Despite a six-game losing streak and a nine-game winless streak, things have been status quo.
Manning refuses to believe this team, picked by some in the preseason to be a contender for the MLS Cup, is as bad as its record.
"We've made no secrets that we've been in active talks with other teams," Manning said. "But nothing has presented itself to us where I can look our fans in the face and say we've become a better team. Maybe I'm loyal to a fault, but for us to justify any moves, we have to show our fans we've improved."
Tampa Bay has one more option now that defender Joe Addo received his green card Monday. Addo, who is from Ghana, is now a senior roster player instead of a senior international player. That means the Mutiny can pursue any international player as long as he fits under the salary cap.
A high-scoring foreign striker likely would be too expensive, but senior internationals such as Colorado's Junior Agogo or D.C. United's Raul Diaz Arce are now available to Tampa Bay. The Mutiny traded Diaz Arce last year, but there is interest in having him return.
"(Addo's green card) opens up an option," Manning said. "Right now we're looking at anything we can do to improve the team. I would like to see it come from within, but at some point we may have to go outside. I think everybody's out there (to trade for)."
And who is tradeable on the Mutiny roster?
"At 2-9-1, I think everyone is," Manning said.
What's unusual, and perhaps sad, about the Mutiny's start is that Tampa Bay is only three points behind Columbus for third place in the Central Division. Tampa Bay plays at Columbus on Saturday.
If the Mutiny was further back, Manning said he would have been tempted to make moves quicker.
"At 2-9-1 we're lucky nobody's jumped away from us," Manning said. "If that had been the case, you probably would've seen more moves already."
VALDERRAMA IN COLOMBIA: Carlos Valderrama flew home after Saturday's match at New England to film promotional ads for Copa America, an international club tournament. He will return either today or Thursday.
HAIRY DECISION: There has been meeting after meeting in the Mutiny offices lately about how the team can snap its losing streak.
After hours of sometimes heated discussion, a decision was made Friday afternoon: All male employees in the front office will grow a goatee until the Mutiny wins. And no, a tie doesn't count, and neither does Monday's exhibition match at the A-League's Atlanta Silverbacks.