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Poor defense, worse luck

The Mutiny is bad. But injuries and suspensions have kept the team from playing to its potential.

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 27, 2001


With 14 games remaining, the Mutiny's slogan should be changed from "Feel the Passion" to "Feel our Pain." Tampa Bay is 3-10-1 and last in the Central Division.

The Mutiny has endured a seven-game losing streak and a 10-game winless streak. It didn't win its first home game until Saturday, a span of seven games.

If students got this report card, they would try to forge theparental signature. If things continue this way, the Mutiny might be held back a grade.

Here's a breakdown of the first half:

Goalkeeping

Give Scott Garlick this much: Even though he has been shot at more than a rifle-range target, he has played every excruciating minute this season. He has faced 113 shots and has a 2.48 goals-against average, worst in the league. He doesn't have a shutout this season, the longest drought in his four-plus years in Major League Soccer.

There were bright spots, like his nine saves in a 3-1 win at New York/New Jersey. There were low points, like the four goals allowed in a tie at 4 with Los Angeles and the six allowed against Columbus.

It has been frustrating for Garlick, who has a championship ring from his time with D.C. United in 1997. He has had an injury-plagued defense in front of him for most of the first half, but he hasn't been hot either. The second half can only get better.

Grade: C.

Defense

This strength became a weakness quickly. Veteran Steve Trittschuh was lost for two months before the season started with a broken right leg, and Chad McCarty was out with a broken left ankle sustained 31 minutes into the opener at Dallas. Chris Houser retired due to illness, leaving Tampa Bay with no depth.

Joe Addo was moved to defensive midfield by coach Alfonso Mondelo but never delivered and became a part-time player before being sidelined with a groin injury. Rookie Craig Demmin has taken time to fit in. Scott Cannon was brought up from the A-League. Even forward Ali Curtis was used on defense for one game.

The result has been confusion, finger-pointing and 35 goals allowed, worst in the league.

Grade: F.

Midfield

The midfield is supposed to be the hub of the team, but so far it has been more like a commuter airport. Carlos Valderrama is the pilot, but he appears on a kamikaze mission. He has been red-carded twice, has verbally abused teammates in games and practices and has been non-existent on defense, which is nothing new. Valderrama, 39, might have worn out his welcome with the Mutiny and could be traded or benched.

Aside from Steve Ralston, who has four goals and three assists in 13 games, consistency has been a problem. Josh Keller has missed three games with injuries, and Kevin Anderson, Jair, John Maessner, Ritchie Kotschau and Gus Kartes have been used in a revol-ving-door rotation.

Grade: D.

Forward

The thinking since the beginning was to try to find somebody to complement Mamadou Diallo, and two rookies were thought to be the answer. It has taken Curtis awhile to get used to MLS, and he has contributed two goals and an assist in 13 games.

Rookie Devin Barclay, 18, understandably has found the transition tough. He notched his first goal Saturday. Diallo has not made things easy by missing five games due to red cards and disciplinary suspensions. He has shown signs of brilliance with four goals against L.A., but he needs to stay on the field for the Mutiny to make a second-half run.

Speedy Eric Quill has shown prowess as a setup man. He leads the team with seven assists, three against D.C. on Saturday with Valderrama on the bench.

Grade: D.

Coaching

Mondelo was forced to shuffle his lineup from Day 1, and he has been scrambling since. He has heard plenty of criticism, and out-of-control players like Diallo and Valderrama don't help.

He has promised personnel changes, but there have been none. He has promised the team will win once it learns how. It knew how last season, but the Mutiny is in danger of missing the playoffs.

Grade: D.

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