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A longshot, but don't tell them

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 8, 2001


The message board in the Mutiny's Raymond James Stadium locker room before Saturday's match against San Jose read short and sweet: "8 in a row."

Winning the final eight games of the season might seem like a lofty goal for Tampa Bay. After all, its longest winning streak this season is one. But after a 2-0 win over the Earthquakes, there at least is hope.

It would be difficult for the Mutiny to make the playoffs, even if it won its seven remaining games. It is 12 points behind eighth-place Dallas (25 points), which is in line for the last spot. The Mutiny would almost certainly have to win its final seven games to stay alive.

But there was a playoff atmosphere in the Mutiny locker room after Saturday's win.

Team captain Steve Trittschuh gave a game ball to coach Perry Van Der Beck, who won his first game since taking over for Alfonso Mondelo on July5.

"I'm dedicating this win to Alfonso," Van Der Beck said. "My thoughts and my feelings have been with him since Day 1. I talked to him before the game and he said it was going to happen for us."

Adin Brown, who was spectacular in goal, midfielder Steve Ralston, who surpassed 15,000 minutes played, and midfielder Danny Pena, who had his first Mutiny goal, also received game balls.

"We stood behind each other and fought, we didn't fight with each other," Pena said. "There needs to be more of that. It's not going to happen overnight. It's got to be a progression. But every game I want to see us get a little better. The result is important, but at the end of the day it's not the most important thing with the situation we're in. As long as we give everything we have for 90 minutes then we'll feel pretty good about ourselves."

SPEAKING OF PENA: Pena will miss Saturday's game at Chicago because of an accumulation of yellow card points. Pena received a yellow card in the first half of Saturday's 2-0 win over San Jose, which put him over the limit of 21.

Pena, 33, has received rave reviews since being traded from Los Angeles on July 20 for a 2002 draft pick. A tenacious defensive midfielder, Pena also showed his offensive side with a goal in the win over San Jose.

"This team hasn't had that vocal team leader since (San Jose coach) Frank Yallop left," Van Der Beck said. "He's the kind of player we needed. He brings a different attitude to this team."

With Pena out, the Mutiny will use its 22nd starting lineup in as many games.

RAZOV RETURNS: U.S. national team forward Ante Razov rejoined the Chicago Fire on Saturday and played 16 minutes in a tie at 1 with Colorado. He is scheduled to make his home debut against the Mutiny on Saturday. Razov, who played for Spanish Second Division team Racing de Ferrol in the offseason, played for the Fire from 1998-2000.

It's not as if Chicago needs more firepower against the Mutiny. Tampa Bay is 0-4-1 at Soldier Field.

INJURY UPDATE: Rookie forward Ali Curtis returned from his left meniscus tear and played 21 minutes against San Jose. He will be available against Chicago.

Defender Scott Cannon is probable after missing two games with a right hip flexor strain.

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