The regular season ends with a 2-2 tie with K.C. and no MLS scoring record for Diallo.
By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 10, 2000
TAMPA -- With a playoff spot and home-field advantage in the first round secured, the only dramas for the Mutiny in Saturday night's regular-season finale was whether it would finally beat Kansas City and whether Mamadou Diallo would set the Major League Soccer season goals record.
No and no.
After Tampa Bay built a two-goal lead, defensive lapses led to two Kansas City goals, and the Mutiny settled for a 2-2 tie in front of 12,776 at Raymond James Stadium. Diallo was held scoreless for the third time in four tries against Kansas City. He will have to settle for second place on the MLS season scoring list with 26 goals.
Kansas City was happy with the tie because it clinched the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and will play Dallas or Colorado on Saturday.
"I was unlucky today," Diallo said. "I worked hard all game. If God doesn't want it, then it won't happen. God gave me a great season. I have 26 goals, so I'm not disappointed."
Disappointing to the Mutiny heading into Thursday night's playoff opener against Los Angeles is the defense's inability to hold a lead. Mutiny midfielder Eric Quill scored two first-half goals, but Kansas City converted two easy scoring chances.
Quill left the game in the 89th minute when he sprained his right ankle. He is doubtful for Thursday.
"I don't know if it's our mentality or if we get lackadaisical or what," Mutiny defender Ritchie Kotschau said. "For some reason, a two-goal lead is difficult for us. If we get a two-goal lead in the playoffs, I wonder if we'll be able to withstand the challenge."
Tampa Bay's first goal was more like bizzaro Mutiny -- the opposite of how things usually work. In the eighth minute, Diallo ran down the right sideline and crossed the ball from deep in the corner. Quill was hanging out near the left post and left-footed the ball past keeper Tony Meola from 3 yards to make it 1-0.
Quill, who has 11 assists, mostly on Diallo goals, scored his fourth goal. Diallo recorded his fourth assist. It was the Mutiny's first goal against Kansas City in 122 minutes, and it was the Mutiny's first non-penalty kick goal against Kansas City this season.
"It was a little strange to assist Eric," Diallo said. "But I am happy for him. This wasn't my game to score goals."
The second goal was a little more familiar.
Midfielder Carlos Valderrama played a perfect give-and-go with Quill in the 33rd minute. Quill, who had space on the left side all night, raced untouched from midfield until 20 yards from goal and dished to Valderrama.
Valderrama touched the ball back to Quill, who took the pass in stride and blasted it past Meola. It was Valderrama's league-leading 26th assist.
Kansas City came back starting with a Chris Henderson goal in the 42nd minute. Peter Vermes launched a line-drive cross into the right side of the box. Henderson sped to the ball and cracked it in midair from 5 yards past sprawling Scott Garlick.
In the 66th minute, a defensive lapse by the Mutiny left Miklos Molnar open from 30 yards. Molnar ran at Garlick and blasted a shot from 15 yards that easily found the left side of the net.
"The goals we gave up were the story of the match," Mutiny coach Tim Hankinson said. "Kansas City does not make a tremendous commitment forward, so for them to get two goals against us tonight is very disappointing.
"It's a big concern for us. Our markings aren't tight enough at crucial times. It's something we've talked about this week, and we talked about it at halftime. We've still got to get better at it."