By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 12, 2001
So Mamadou Diallo bid farewell to the Mutiny Sunday evening but is the Senegalese striker really finished in Tampa Bay? Diallo still has two years left on his MLS contract, and in the unlikely event the Mutiny doesn't trade him or he is not reallocated by the league, he could end up with the Mutiny next season.
"Mamadou and I have a pretty good relationship," general manager Bill Manning said. "We'll come up with something that is good for everyone. Maybe he'll get an opportunity to play a little bit (in Europe) and maybe we'll make a couple moves and (Diallo) says it's worth a shot (to come back).
"But in the end I've got to listen to (coach) Perry Van Der Beck. They had a little bit of a blowup in D.C. and Perry may have different thoughts. Perry has to get his own players."
Van Der Beck and Diallo had a heated discussion at halftime in Washington when Van Der Beck decided to bench Diallo for the second half. Diallo practiced lightly last week and didn't play until the 69th minute in the home finale Sunday.
Diallo said he doubts he would return to the Mutiny, where he has played 50 games and scored 35 goals. But he did say if there were changes with the team, maybe he would consider returning.
But don't count on it. If Diallo is forced back to Tampa next season, he'll likely sit out.
"It was a tough thing for me to go in (to Manning's office) and say that I don't want to be here anymore," Diallo said. "I think it's not good to keep a player here who doesn't want to play. I'm being a professional about it and I think the team will be professional."
Diallo said he will take some time off in Senegal, then play for a European team to stay in shape for the World Cup, which Senegal qualified for last month.
SCHEDULING UPDATE: While it postponed today's games, the MLS did not say Tuesday whether the Mutiny at Columbus season finale would be played as scheduled Saturday night. Three other MLS matches are scheduled for Saturday, and two on Sunday to close out the season.
IT AIN'T OVER: Just because Tampa Bay's season is scheduled to end Saturday, Van Der Beck isn't giving his troops much time off. Mutiny players will get two weeks off and reconvene for workouts throughout October.
Van Der Beck plans to arrange several scrimmage games against area club teams and perhaps against teams as far south as Miami. At least six players will be absent from training.
Devin Barclay, Adin Brown, Ali Curtis, Gus Kartes, Albert Munoz and Eric Quill will go to Europe to train with various First and Second Division teams. Chad McCarty also might go if he's healthy after surgery on his left ankle.
"I want the players to get in the mind-set that the season is seven months long and not six," Van Der Beck said. "The season starts in April and you play until October to win a championship."
RALSTON SITS: Mutiny midfielder Steve Ralston played in 46 straight matches before missing Sunday's game against Columbus with a right thigh contusion. Ralston was injured in practice but should be able to play in the season finale.
If Ralston starts, it means the Mutiny will use a 28th starting lineup in as many games.
ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Columbus forward Jeff Cunningham was available for the Mutiny to select in the 1998 college draft. Instead, Tampa Bay selected midfielder Josh Keller with the seventh overall selection.
Cunningham, 25 and a former Crystal River High and University of South Florida standout, was taken with the ninth pick in 1998 and has been a star for the Crew this season. He became the first player in team history to score double-digit goals and assists in one season. He scored his 10th goal against the Mutiny Sunday and has 13 assists.
"It's always nice to score in Tampa, especially since they didn't draft me," Cunningham said.