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Tempestuous captain on block


© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 20, 2001

In the past month, midfielder Carlos Valderrama has spit on two opponents, punched a teammate in practice and earned two red cards. His latest outburst came in the 12th minute of Saturday's match at Columbus when he spit on John Harkes after he and Harkes collided chasing a loose ball.

How long will the Mutiny put up with its 39-year-old captain and his childish antics? Apparently not very long.

Mutiny president and general manager Bill Manning hinted that Valderrama is on the trade block.

"You could speculate that," Manning said.

Manning said he'd listen to any team willing to take on the feisty playmaker and his $267,500 salary, the league maximum. Valderrama signed a two-year contract extension with Major League Soccer before this season.

Valderrama definitely will miss Saturday's home game against D.C. United. Manning said MLS' disciplinary committee will not hand down any further suspension on Valderrama.

There could be more fines from the team, and Valderrama could be benched by coach Alfonso Mondelo for future games.

It was Valderrama's second red card in three weeks. On May 26 he was ejected when he spit on Miami's Ian Bishop at the conclusion of a 4-0 loss. Three days later, Valderrama punched forward Eric Quill in practice and tried to punch midfielder Josh Keller.

Valderrama has six assists in 12 games.

Valderrama isn't the only one who might move. After an embarrasing 6-1 loss to Columbus, Manning said the 2-10-1 Mutiny is at a crossroad.

"We're at a point right now where we can go in one of two directions," Manning said. "Do we make moves to salvage the season or do we build for next year? We could do what Miami did and work through the season, get some good draft picks and allocations and build for next year. Or we could make some moves to win now. Right now we've got to figure out which way to go."

He met with the team Tuesday when it arrived from Atlanta after a loss -- what else -- in an exhibition at the A-League's Silverbacks. He plans to talk with Valderrama personally, plus other players.

"I've got to question the team as a whole," Manning said. "We have to decide which faces are truly dedicated to what they're doing and which aren't."

STATS DON'T LIE: The numbers are ugly. Tampa Bay has allowed 33 goals, the most in MLS by seven. It has scored 16, by far the widest margin between goals scored and allowed. Scott Garlick is last in the league among goalkeepers with 450 or more minutes with a 2.52 goals-against average in 13 games. There's a seven-game losing streak and a 10-game winless streak. Mamadou Diallo leads the league with 25 offside in eight games and Valderrama is tied for for the league lead with two ejections.

U.S. OPEN CUP: The Mutiny plays in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday at the A-League's Connecticut Wolves. The game is at 7:05 p.m. at Veteran's Memorial Stadium in New Britain, Conn. The match is after Saturday's home game and before the June 30 game at Kansas City.

The U.S. Open Cup is in its 88th year and is open to all amateur and professional teams in the United States. Since 1996, MLS teams have won the championship four of five years. The winning club receives $100,000.

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