He has been gone for 14 years, but Roy Wegerle never really left Tampa. In all the places his soccer career has taken him since _ Tacoma, Washington, London, Denver and Washington _ the former University of South Florida and Tampa Bay Rowdies star always has considered Tampa home.
His brother, Steve, has lived in Tampa for 20 years. Wegerle listed Tampa as his hometown no matter what team he was playing for. In fact, Wegerle never gave up his Florida driver's license.
So when D.C. United coach Bruce Arena told Wegerle he'd been traded to the Mutiny, he couldn't pack his car fast enough.
"This is the place that I consider home more than any other place," said Wegerle, who moved to Tampa when he was 17. "I've always been willing to travel. But now I'm almost 35 and it's time I stop doing all that. It's time to start thinking about settling down."
It's hard to imagine Wegerle settling down. He has played for 10 club teams in his 15-year career. He also has been a member of the U.S. national team since 1993.
The Mutiny is Wegerle's third Major League Soccer team in as many years. In 1996, he was a player/coach in Colorado. He was traded to D.C. United in 1997 and helped it to a second straight MLS Cup championship.
Now he's with the Mutiny, traded three days ago for Roy Lassiter. Tampa Bay is 1-5 and in desperate need of goals and wins. He'll get his first chance to help the Mutiny tonight against Columbus.
Wegerle hopes to provide a spark.
"By no means do I see myself as a savior," Wegerle said. "I'm here to try to help get things turned around. This is a good team that just needs a change of fortune."
Wegerle, 32, knows about changes of fortune. During his first year in Colorado, he again suffered knee problems. He underwent his ninth knee surgery and thought his playing days were over.
But he didn't give up. With the help of former Mutiny fitness director Vern Gambetta, Wegerle worked tirelessly to get back in shape. He reported to the national team in January more fit than he had been before his last surgery.
"I think I'm in the best shape I've been in in three or four years," he said. "Two or three years ago, I didn't think I'd be in the position I'm in now. I thought my career had come to an end. But I worked very hard and turned things around for myself. I'm very fortunate."
Because of the U.S. participation in World Cup '98, the Mutiny won't get to enjoy Wegerle for long. After the May 10 match at New England, Wegerle rejoins the national team and heads to France. He'll miss at least nine MLS games.
He will play only three games before leaving, but that's fine with the Mutiny.
"The next two or three games are very important for us," Mutiny coach John Kowalski said. "He's here, and if he can help us win those games and put us back on track, we'll be fine. Then, after that, we'll find other players elsewhere."
And that player likely will be Bolivian midfielder Mauricio Ramos. The Mutiny has been working for about a month to obtain Ramos, who has eight goals in seven games for his Bolivian first divison team.
Ramos, 28, played in the 1994 World Cup for Bolivia. He likely will join the Mutiny in 10 days to two weeks after visa paperwork is cleared.
If Wegerle and Ramos work out, the Mutiny could be back on track. Either way, Wegerle has come full circle.
"This is the place I've wanted to live since I was a kid," Wegerle said. "You always think that it would be great to come back and play in Tampa again, but one thing leads to another and you never think you're going to get there. I couldn't have written a better script."
NOTES: Major League Soccer announced an agreement with Audio-Net that will make games available on the World Wide Web. It's www.mlsnet.com or www.audionet.com to tune into the games; www.mlsnet.com/broadcast for a schedule. The system debuts with tonight's Crew-Mutiny. MLS announced 12 schedule changes, two of which affect the Mutiny. The club's road game at D.C. United on Sept. 6 has been moved to July 29. The Sept. 13 regular-season home finale will start earlier _ 5:30 p.m. _ to accommodate a program scheduled as part of the final event at Houlihan's Stadium.
D.C. 3, SAN JOSE 1: John Harkes, removed from the U.S. national team two weeks ago, scored two spectacular goals and assisted on Roy Lassiter's first score of the season as D.C. United defeated visiting San Jose. Harkes, 31, scored in the 11th and 59th minutes and set up Lassiter in the 70th minute. Lassiter entered the game as a halftime substitute. Harkes dropped a pass behind the Clash defense to Lassiter, who flicked the ball over charging keeper David Kramer.
LOS ANGELES 2, KANSAS CITY 0: Mauricio Cienfuegos scored in his third consecutive game as visiting Los Angeles won an MLS-record 13th straight. Los Angeles held the record of 12, set in the league's first season.
_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.