By PETE GRATHOFF
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 3, 2000
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Mutiny's road to the Central Division crown got a little more bumpy Saturday night.
The Wizards scored early and withstood a late charge from the Mutiny to win 1-0 in front of a season-high 20,078 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Tampa Bay (16-12-3) remained three points ahead of Chicago for the top spot in the MLS Central, but the Fire has three games remaining, including tonight against Colorado. The Mutiny has one game left, Saturday at home against the Wizards.
"We didn't help ourselves tonight," said Mutiny goalie Scott Garlick, who made 11 saves and has 182 for the season, one short of the MLS single-season record.
The Wizards (15-8-8) put immediate pressure on the Mutiny. In the 10th minute, a shot from the top of the penalty area by Miklos Molnar deflected off Tampa Bay's Chad McCarty and slipped past Garlick.
Molnar, nursing a sore left knee, scored off assists from Matt McKeon and Chris Brown.
By that time, the Wizards had three corner kicks and numerous scoring chances.
"Kansas City came out and showed they wanted to win the Western Division and beat us," Tampa Bay coach Tim Hankinson said. "And we didn't show as much desire as they did in the early stages of the game."
Hankinson substituted Ritchie Kotschau for Manny Lagos in the 16th minute.
"Using an early sub on a hot night (99 at kickoff) and having to take off a good attacking player I knew would haunt us later on, but if were going to keep the game close, we didn't have any choice but to put Ritchie in," Hankinson said.
The move did settle things down, but Tampa Bay failed to put much pressure on goalie Tony Meola in the first hour.
But over the final 30 minutes, the Mutiny found a rhythm. Meola made a diving stop of a Carlos Valderrama shot in the 74th minute, and three minutes later Mamadou Diallo pushed a shot past Meola that was called a handball, denying Diallo a share of the single-season record for goals. He has 26, one shy of the 1997 league record set by Roy Lassiter.
In injury time, Meola saved a Steve Trittschuh header, and seconds later Valderrama set up a Diallo header, but Meola made a diving stop. It was Meola's 15th shutout of the season and the 16th for the Wizards. Two of those shutouts have come against the Mutiny, and Kansas City is 3-0 against Tampa Bay this year.
That is of more concern for Hankinson than the race for playoff seeding.
"I couldn't care less about the conference," Hankinson said. "This is the third time we've fallen short against Kansas City, and with them coming back next week to our place ... right now our guys have got to prove they can beat Kansas City."