Alfonso Mondelo isn't used to the struggles, especially on offense, that he has seen with the Mutiny this season.
By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2001
Alfonso Mondelo has been a coach for 20 years, and he has never experienced the kind of losing he's going through as a first-year coach with the Mutiny. Tampa Bay is 2-9-1, loser of six straight and winless in its last nine.
It's getting close to the worst start in team history. In 1998, after a massive rebuilding project under coach John Kowalski and general manager Nick Sakiewicz, Tampa Bay started 2-11 with two shootout losses.
Kowalski eventually was fired, and the Mutiny finished 12-20. Mondelo, hand-picked by general manager Bill Manning to replace Tim Hankinson, isn't likely to suffer the same fate, at least not this season.
But the losing is starting to get old. Mondelo has won A-League and USISL championships. He has won Amateur Cup titles with the New York Hota Bavarians, and he even guided the then-woeful New York/New Jersey MetroStars to a playoff berth in 1998, though he was fired before the last game of the regular season.
He never has had a team go nine games without a win.
"Never," Mondelo said. "Always used to winning. It's very difficult personally. I take it very personally. I'm the person responsible for the team so I look at what could be done differently. I think the team is in place and they're doing what they should be doing. For one reason or the other things haven't gone right."
That's an understatement. The Mutiny has used a different starting lineup in all 12 games this season. It has scored one non-penalty kick goal since May 9 and hasn't scored in its past two games.
After Saturday's 3-0 loss at New England, Mondelo put the team through two-a-day practices Tuesday and Wednesday. He said he believes the talent is there, but the mind-set is not.
"When I watch the other teams in MLS play it's not like they're playing good," Mondelo said. "I watched MetroStars/D.C. (Wednesday) and by no means are they playing any better than we are. The game was poor quality. It's just that things aren't going right for us.
"All you can do is keep a positive attitude and make them believe in themselves. We've been working this week on the basics, making the right cross, making the right passes, finishing. That's what we've been lacking.
"I think we outplayed Dallas here. We definitely outplayed Kansas City. That was the game that could've made things better. Things are not clicking for us but I don't think it's lack of effort. It becomes a mental block. You need to put the ball in the net."
The Crew, tonight's opponent in Columbus, is 2-4-4 and hasn't won since May 19, a 2-1 overtime thriller that was voted in an Internet poll as the greatest win in Crew history. Tom Fitzgerald, the former Jesuit High and University of Tampa coach, was fired earlier in the season.
Mondelo has tinkered with the lineup all season. Injuries forced him to do so early in the year, but he also moved forward Ali Curtis to defense one game. Starters Ritchie Kotschau and Joe Addo have been benched occasionally, and 18-year-old forward Devin Barclay has played more than expected.
Mondelo could have close to his ideal starting lineup tonight. Forward Eric Quill is probable with a hamstring strain, and defender Chad McCarty is two weeks away from playing after breaking his ankle in the opening game. McCarty might play in an A-League game next week.
Midfielder Carlos Valderrama didn't practice all week while shooting promotional video in Colombia, but will start tonight.
Through it all, Mondelo has tried to remain positive. He said he believes this still is a team that can make the playoffs and go far.
"If I thought there was no hope, then it would be different," he said. "But I haven't lost faith in this team. They have the right attitude."
U.S. OPEN CUP: The Mutiny visits the A-League's Connecticut Wolves for a second-round game June 26 at New Britain, Conn.
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30; Columbus (Ohio) Crew Stadium.
TV/RADIO: Sunshine; WWBA-AM 1040, WAMA-AM 1550 (Spanish).
RECORDS: Mutiny 2-9-1, Crew 2-4-4. COACHES: Mutiny -- Alfonso Mondelo. Crew -- Greg Andrulis.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Mutiny -- F Mamadou Diallo, M Carlos Valderrama, M Steve Ralston, G Scott Garlick, D Steve Trittschuh. Crew -- M John Wilmar Perez, M Brian Maisonneuve, D Mike Clark, G Tom Presthus, D Tenywa Bonseu.
NOTES: Mutiny D Joe Addo is out with a right hamstring strain. Columbus F Brian McBride is with the U.S. national team, D Ansil Elcock is with Trinidad and Tobago and F Edson Buddle is with the U.S. under-20 team. Also for Columbus, M Ian Woan (left groin strain), M Todd Yeagley (left foot fracture) and M Robert Warzycha (broken left ankle) will miss the game. The Mutiny is unbeaten in its last five games at Crew Stadium and has won seven of the past eight meetings. Columbus won 2-1 in Tampa on April 14. With 10 goals, Columbus is the lowest-scoring offense in MLS. The Mutiny hasn't won a road game since April 21 at New York/New Jersey. Garlick is tied with Mark Dougherty's team record for wins (33). Dougherty is a backup for Columbus. Tampa Bay will travel to Atlanta for a Monday exhibition against the A-League Silverbacks.