By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2001
TAMPA -- With playmaker Carlos Valderrama suspended for his second red card of the season, the Mutiny's biggest question entering Saturday's game was, who would distribute the ball?
Midfielder Eric Quill, that's who.
Quill, once on the receiving end of a Valderrama punch in practice, set up all three goals as the Mutiny defeated D.C. United 3-2 before 9,232 at Raymond James Stadium.
Steve Ralston, Mamadou Diallo and Devin Barclay scored in the first half, and Tampa Bay held off a late rally to snap a seven-game losing streak and 10-game winless skid.
The Mutiny, 0-5-1 in its first six games at Raymond James Stadium, became the final MLS team to win at home this season.
"It was important that the team did it without Valderrama," Mutiny coach Alfonso Mondelo said. "It's good to see our young players come in, step in and do the job."
Tampa Bay's game shorts arrived a few days ago, allowing the team to play with a full uniform for the first time this season.
But Quill's playmaking and his teammates' ability to finish were most responsible for the team improving to 3-10-1 at the midpoint of the season, fourth place in the Central Division.
"Usually, we have Carlos on the ball, but with him absent tonight, I figured we'd have some success doing the quick restarts," Quill said. "I figured I'd get the ball tonight and see what I could find, and it worked out."
It didn't take long, as Ralston scored Tampa Bay's earliest goal of the season just eight minutes into the game.
D.C.'s Abdul Thompson Conteh grabbed Josh Keller from behind just outside the 18-yard box, giving the Mutiny a free kick from 25 yards. Quill's kick found Ralston near the center of the box, and the midfielder headed the ball into the net.
A second quick restart allowed Diallo to end his career-high four-game goal-less streak in the 23rd minute. Quill sent a through pass ahead to Diallo, who one-timed the ball past lunging goalkeeper Mike Ammann from 13 yards.
The meeting was the first between Diallo and Ammann since the two collided while competing for a 50-50 ball in August.
Ammann, then with New York/New Jersey, broke his jaw, three ribs and punctured a lung slightly, injuries that sidelined the keeper for more than a month.
Quill picked up his third assist, one shy of the team's single-game record (held by Valderrama) in the 42nd minute.
He sent a long pass ahead to Barclay, who dribbled to within 15 yards before sending a right-footed shot into the bottom left corner of the net for his first MLS goal.
"That was unbelieveable," the 18-year-old said. "Best feeling in the world. Eric played me a great ball, and I just took my time and put it in the corner."
The three first-half scores were the most for Tampa Bay this season. The Mutiny has not scored more than four in a game this season.
D.C. closed to 3-2 on second-half goals by Jaime Moreno and Stephen Armstrong.
With Valderrama sidelined, defender Steve Trittschuh served as the team's captain. Mondelo hinted that Trittschuh might hold on to the designation.
"I don't think you need to fix what's not broke," the coach said.
UP NEXT: Mutiny at Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunshine.