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Shot treatment: Mutiny seeks cure for scoring ills

Published Sep. 16, 2005

Most of the numbers look good.

The Mutiny, entering today's game against the Colorado Rapids at Denver's Mile High Stadium, comfortably leads the Eastern Conference with a 10-7 record.

The Mutiny averages a robust 2.1 goals, tied with the Los Angeles Galaxy for the lead in Major League Soccer.

But another set of numbers, seemingly incongruous to the others, jumps out: Tampa Bay is ninth in the 10-team league in shots (194) _ roughly 11 a game _ and last in shots on goal (89) _ about 5 a game. It has been outshot 12 times.

"There's a difference between shooting and quality shooting," said Mutiny coach Thomas Rongen, who isn't one to spend much time scrutinizing statistics.

And when the Mutiny does shoot, you can usually find the ball in the net.

"When we go forward, we go forward," said Roy Lassiter, who has a team-high 12 goals on just 23 shots on goal _ a shot with a chance of going in.

Of the Mutiny's total shots, 17.5 percent are goals. And it converts 38 percent of its shots on goal. Both lead the league and the latter is akin to a team hitting .400.

"It's almost scary," Rongen said, perusing the stat sheet.

Still, he and his players realize the numbers indicate a shortcoming that must be addressed.

Too often, the Mutiny, which moves the ball with uncanny precision at times, especially when it funnels through playmaker Carlos Valderrama, looks to make that perfect set-up pass and seems reluctant to shoot.

Kansas City midfielders Preki and Mark Chung, the former USF standout, certainly are not shy. They see a crack in the defense and try to exploit it.

Entering Saturday's game, Preki had a league-high 91 shots, 33 more than Colorado forward Shaun Bartlett, and led MLS in scoring with 11 goals and eight assists. Chung had 56 shots, fourth-best overall. Sure, many shots sail high or wide, but if you don't shoot, you don't score.

"We should be shooting more," Lassiter said. "We don't need to practice it. It's just when we get around the box or just outside it, guys with strong legs need to take it."

Rongen suggested that it's a matter of attitude _ some need to be ruthless, almost selfish _ and partly a matter of aptitude _ some need to step up their play.

Left winger Evans Wise, for instance, has just 17 shots; five on goal. He has three assists and no goals. His counterpart on the right side of midfield, Steve Ralston, has four goals but has taken just 12 shots; six on goal.

"Me personally, I believe I do need to shoot more," said Wise. "It's one of the things I'm working on in practice. The first half of the season, I was trying more to get to the line and cross it."

His lone shot Thursday forced goalkeeper Garth Lagerwey to make a save, the only one he made. But the deflection came to Ivan McKinley for the Mutiny's second goal of the game.

As teams gain more defensive cohesion, shots, let alone goals will be more difficult to muster. So, the Mutiny expects to see its conversion rate drop. And the only way to offset that is with quantity.

"We continue to stress working in that final third," Rongen said. "It's going to be crucial for us to get to the point where we do create more and shoot more."