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After awful year, Mutiny starts rebuild

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2001


TAMPA -- Is there any team in professional sports with a more fitting name than the Mutiny in 2001?

TAMPA -- Is there any team in professional sports with a more fitting name than the Mutiny in 2001?

During the five-month regular season, two of Tampa Bay's leaders (coach Alfonso Mondelo and captain Carlos Valderrama) jumped ship. Its leading scorer (forward Mamadou Diallo) engaged in shouting matches on the field, in the locker room and during practice, then said he would not play for the MLS team next season.

Goalkeeper Scott Garlick walked out of practice after an altercation and couldn't wait to leave the team. He was traded to Colorado with Valderrama.

There were injuries to key defenders Steve Trittschuh and Chad McCarty. There were blowout losses, there was finger pointing, there was frustration.

"You just want to get the year over and think about next season," said forward Eric Quill, who was punched by Valderrama during a June practice.

The Mutiny set a mark that likely won't be broken for a long time, if ever. In 27 games it was 4-21-2.

The 14 points broke New York/New Jersey's record of 15 in 1999. That season was 32 games, and there was a shootout to determine a winner. Colorado came close to matching the Mutiny's futility with five wins this season, but it also had eight ties. The Mutiny had a 10-game winless streak and two six-game losing streaks. It was on a 10-game road losing streak when its final game on Saturday was canceled, along with the rest of MLS' regular-season finales.

The Mutiny allowed 68 goals and scored 32, team records. Tampa Bay had one shutout and was shut out eight times.

Diallo, who scored 26 goals in 2000, slipped to nine in 22 games. He fell out of favor with coach Perry Van Der Beck and did not start the final game of the season on Mamadou Diallo Bobblehead Doll night.

The only players who put together decent seasons were midfielder Steve Ralston (7 goals, 6 assists in 25 games) and Quill (2 goals, 8 assists in 24 games).

As Van Der Beck looks to next season, he said no jobs are safe. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to make this team a better team," he said. "To talk about the two or three players who we think are cornerstone players, well, that could change. If (trading them) can get me better players, then I will do it. If that's what it takes, I'll do it."

Van Der Beck took over for Mondelo July 7 and became head coach a few days later. Mondelo resigned after a July 4 loss to New York/New Jersey in which the Mutiny gave up two goals in the last five minutes.

Van Der Beck said he'll be "the hardest working coach in MLS" in the offseason. The Mutiny gets another allocation pick, sort of a reward for being the worst team in the league. It also has a discovery pick available, and if it trades Diallo it will have a senior international roster spot.

"We have a lot of salary cap room and we have two top draft picks," general manager Bill Manning said. "If you look at some of the discovery players in the league this year, like (Miami's) Ian Bishop and (San Jose's) Ronnie Ekelund, they were mature guys who made an impact right away. Those are the type character players we're looking for."

Van Der Beck isn't giving up on this season's team entirely. Quill, Albert Munoz, Devin Barclay, Ali Curtis, Gus Kartes and Adin Brown will train in Europe. McCarty also might go if his broken left ankle heals.

Under Van Der Beck, the Mutiny was 1-7-1. He has an agreement with Manning to coach next season, but he has no contract. "I want to return, yes," he said.

But will he return to a competitive Mutiny?

"There are a lot of ways you can go about it," Van Der Beck said. "You can get some players through discovery picks. You can get them through trades. You can get them through the draft, or by A-League call-up. We're not going to go with the A-League call-ups. But there are players we can get by looking around, doing our homework. It's going to be a very busy offseason."

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