The colorful midfielder and two others go to Colorado in a three-way deal. Tampa Bay gets Adin Brown, Eric Denton and a first-round pick.
By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 29, 2001
TAMPA -- In retrospect, the Mutiny's 3-2 victory over D.C. United on Saturday was a test run.
Now the team will see if it can win without its most talented player over the long haul.
In a blockbuster deal Thursday between MLS' two worst teams, the Mutiny traded Carlos Valderrama, its cornerstone and one of the league's most recognizable players, in a three-team deal involving the Colorado Rapids and D.C. United.
Valderrama, goalkeeper Scott Garlick and defender Ritchie Kotschau went to Colorado for keeper Adin Brown, defender Scott Vermillion and the Rapids' first-round pick in next year's draft. Vermillion then was dealt to D.C. for defender Eric Denton.
Brown and Denton will be available for Saturday's game at Kansas City.
"The team on Saturday made a very loud statement when they went out and won without Carlos," Mutiny general manager Bill Manning said.
With Valderrama serving a one-game suspension, the Mutiny (3-10-1) played its best game of the season. Coach Alfonso Mondelo hopes to see more hard-working, defense-conscious play.
"We felt that for the team to go forward for now and in future years to get younger and maybe move away from being Valderrama dependent, that this was the right move at the right time," Mondelo said.
Valderrama, 39, is known worldwide for his playmaking ability and wild orange hair. Lately, however, the fiery midfielder has become synonymous with the color red.
In the past month, he received two red cards, tying the team's season record, after spitting on opponents. He also punched teammate Eric Quill in practice.
"That incident, I think, split the team, and then in Columbus (when Valderrama spit on John Harkes), that was another incident when it didn't seem like the guys were battling together," Manning said.
Valderrama, a former Mutiny captain, said he was told about the possibility of a trade after the win over D.C. He said he chose to go to Colorado, where he will be reunited with former Mutiny coach Tim Hankinson.
"He's a coach that likes to work. He's a coach that likes to win," Valderrama said through an interpreter. "He respects his fellow players, and he doesn't try to order other people around."
Hankinson is eager to renew his relationship with Valderrama, who will make his Colorado debut Saturday against San Jose.
"He's been frustrated this year," Hankinson said. "I feel he's always played with fun in his heart, and I just didn't see those qualities in him this season while playing with Tampa."
Valderrama said the Mutiny's struggles were due to the team's failure to replace Manny Lagos, Dominic Kinnear and Raul Diaz Arce.
The three combined for 13 goals and 42 points last season.
"They didn't bring in new blood," Valderrama said. "Three important players left last year, and none were replaced."
Valderrama signed a two-year contract extension before this season.
Colorado will pick up nearly two-thirds of his salary, plus next year, which should create room under the salary cap, Manning said.
"We have some options now," he said. "A week ago, we didn't have any options."
Garlick, 29, set the Mutiny record for career victories (33) in the win over D.C. His wife, Holly, is the Mutiny's trainer.
Brown, 23, is the league's top up-and-coming goalkeeper. A knee injury kept him from playing with the U.S. Olympic team in Sydney.
Denton, 23, started nine games for D.C. at left back and left midfield. He will replace Kotschau at left back.
Valderrama, who recently bought a house in Tampa, said his family will return to the area when his playing career is over.
"I love the people here, and the people here love me back," Valderrama said. "I was happy here. But a soccer career is like that. One day I'll be here, and the next day I'll be somewhere else."