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Columbus advances, while Tampa Bay's once promising playoff possibilities evaporate.

By Robert Wagman

Friday, October 22, 1999) -- On October 6, the visiting Tampa Bay Mutiny broke D.C. United's 11-match winning streak by defeating the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference leader 4-2 at RFK Stadium. Most observers believed the result showed that Tampa Bay had put it all together in the late season, and was poised to make a run through the playoffs.

Who knew the unexpectedly easy victory in Washington would be the high point of the Mutiny season, and the playoffs would end with a 305-minute scoring draught while Columbus moved easily to the conference final with a second consecutive shutout victory?

Columbus basically won the match while expending as little effort as possible. The Mutiny, knowing it had to win to return the series to Columbus for a third game, attacked and attacked from the opening whistle. Tampa Bay fired shot after shot, but few were on goal and none caused Crew goalkeeper Mark Dougherty much difficulty.

At the other end, whenever the Crew counterattacked, it was dangerous. Being charitable, the Mutiny's central defenders Chad McCarty and Chris Houser were woefully outmatched by Columbus attackers Stern John, Brian McBride and Brian West.

Both McCarty and Houser had awful matches and Tampa was fortunate to have stayed only one goal down until the final minutes.

Carlos Valderrama played well for Tampa Bay, as did Manny Lagos and Steve Ralston. But it seemed that whenever a Mutiny player appeared open for a shot, a Columbus defender would get to the ball first, or would get a foot or head on the ball to block the shot. Todd Yeagley, playing in something of a sweeper role, was especially effective for the visitors.

So now Columbus can get a full week of rest as its awaits the winner of the D.C. United-Miami Fusion series. A United-Crew division final shapes up to be the most entertaining of playoff matchups.

Robert Wagman’s "It Seems To Me . . ." column appears weekly on SoccerTimes. He can be e-mailed at

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