The Mutiny's look will change again tonight against the MetroStars.
By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 4, 2001
TAMPA -- Fifteen times the Mutiny has taken the field this season, and 15 times it has been forced to start a different lineup.
Twelve times, Tampa Bay emerged winless. Eleven times, it failed to salvage even a tie.
Blame injuries, if you like. Or suspensions. Or trades. Whatever the cause, a lack of continuity has been the biggest reason behind the Mutiny's league-worst 3-11-1 record.
"That has been a problem that has plagued us all season long," coach Alfonso Mondelo said.
The trend likely will continue today. Recently acquired Wojtek Krakowiak (pronounced Voy-teck Kra-cove-ee-ak) is expected to replace injured Jair at midfield when the Mutiny hosts the New York/New Jersey MetroStars tonight.
Jair, who assumed distribution duties after Carlos Valderrama was traded to Colorado last week, was injured in the Mutiny's 3-0 loss to Kansas City on Saturday.
Jair sustained a right thigh bruise when Kansas City's Michael Green caught him with a knee in the 14th minute. He was replaced by Krakowiak, who was very active in 75 minutes.
Jair is listed as questionable for tonight, but Mondelo said the midfielder is unlikely to return until Saturday against Chicago.
Krakowiak was acquired Friday off waivers from San Jose. He had five goals and no assists in 24 games for the Earthquakes last season, including 11 starts. He played briefly in one game this season before being released.
Mondelo said Krakowiak was not acquired to replace Valderrama, who had one goal and six assists in 12 starts for Tampa Bay.
"They're very different," Mondelo said. "Carlos was the master passer. With Wojtek, what we got was a gritty player with a high work rate who is capable of winning balls as well as distributing and penetrating into open spaces and is able to finish.
"This is not the player we were looking (at) to replace Carlos by any means."
It is likely Thursday's trades -- which sent Valderrama, goalkeeper Scott Garlick and defender Ritchie Kotschau to Colorado for keeper Adin Brown, defender Scott Vermillion and the Rapids' first-round pick in next year's draft, then sent Vermillion to D.C. for defender Eric Denton -- is the first of many moves Tampa Bay will make in an effort to improve the league's worst team.
Developing continuity could take longer.
Brown and Denton, both 23, appear to be fixtures in the lineup for years to come. The trade was completed too late for either to practice with the Mutiny before the Kansas City game.
Any chance of developing familiarity with their new teammates was dashed when Jair was injured and midfielder Eric Quill was moved to defensive midfield to shore up a defense that was without injured Josh Keller and Scott Cannon.
The Mutiny proved susceptible to attacks down the center and allowed two Kansas City goals in the first 16 minutes.
Keller, who missed the game with back spasms, and Cannon, out two games with irritation in his right knee, are expected to return today.
"We should be as close to having a full team available as we've had all season," Mondelo said.
In other words, expect to see a 16th starting lineup.
WHEN/WHERE: 7; Raymond James Stadium, Tampa.
RADIO: WWBA-AM 1040, WAMA-AM 1550 (Spanish).
RECORDS: MetroStars 6-6-3; Mutiny 3-11-1.
COACHES: MetroStars -- Octavio Zambrano; Mutiny -- Alfonso Mondelo.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: MetroStars -- M Petter Villegas, M Tab Ramos, F Adolfo Valencia, M Mark Chung, G Tim Howard. Mutiny -- F Mamadou Diallo, M Wojtek Krakowiak, D Eric Denton, D Steve Trittschuh, G Adin Brown.
NOTES: Krakowiak, Denton and Brown make their home debuts as the Mutiny seeks consecutive wins at Raymond James Stadium. A 25-minute fireworks display will follow. Tampa Bay has the league's worst record. New York/New Jersey is second in the Eastern Division, 14 points behind Miami. Tampa Bay M Josh Keller (back spasms) and D Scott Cannon (right knee) are probable. M Jair (right thigh bruise) and F Ali Curtis (knee) are questionable. D Chad McCarty (broken left ankle) is out. New York/New Jersey waived F Alex Comas on Friday. Villegas (sprained left medial collateral ligament) is probable. Ramos (sprained right ankle) is questionable. M/F Clint Mathis (torn right anterior cruciate ligament), F Rodrigo Faria (right leg tear) and D/M Steve Shak (partially torn knee ligaments) are out. -- Compiled by Frank Pastor.