The Mutiny has this losing thing down pat.
Throughout most of its first seven games, Tampa Bay has been anemic on offense and unable to keep up with its opponents. But Sunday afternoon, before a crowd of 6,142 against New York/New Jersey, the Mutiny found a new way to lose.
This time it outshot the MetroStars 17-11, had numerous scoring chances, played good defense and still lost 1-0, the fifth shutout,which extended the Mutiny's scoreless streak to 244 minutes. It was the Mutiny's fourth straight loss, dropping it to 1-7.
Conversely, the MetroStars (3-3) have won three straight. This was New York/New Jersey's first win at Houlihan's Stadium.
"I thought we executed the game plan fairly well," Mutiny coach John Kowalski said. "The players gave it 100 percent. There's nobody to point fingers at. We just have to work through this."
After Sunday's effort, the Mutiny is starting to wonder what it's going to take to end the losing. Midfielders Frankie Hejduk and Steve Ralston spent much of the game loitering in front of the MetroStars net, but neither player could score.
In the first half, Ralston had a golden opportunity when Hejduk gave him a through ball. But his shot from 10 yards out was saved by Tony Meola.
Meola, who was sick and had to take fluids intravenously before the game, ended up with seven saves.
Hejduk had a blast from 20 yards out in the 39th minute, but Meola came up with another save. Gilmar had a ball taken off his feet by Meola in the 35th minute, preserving the shutout.
After a scoreless first half, it was more of the same for the Mutiny in the second half. In the 55th minute, Hejduk flicked a pass over defender Arley Palacios and ran uncontested toward the goal. Palacios tackled Hejduk just before the penalty box, and the scoring chance was nullified.
After dominating play for much of the game, the bottom fell out for the Mutiny in the 75th minute. Diego Sonora took a well-placed pass from second-half substitute Paul Dougherty and converted a right-footed blast past Thomas Ravelli.
It could've been worse. Just a minute later, Sam George was called for tackling Tab Ramos in the penalty box. But Ravelli saved Dougherty's penalty kick.
"It seems like we outplay them, then we make one mistake and it's a goal," Hejduk said. "They get the luck of the draw. We could've had the same thing and we probably would've missed the goal. That's the way it's been going."
If any team can relate to the Mutiny's current woes it's the MetroStars. With the win, New York/New Jersey is at .500 for the first time since August 1996.
"This is the kind of game that we would've lost in the past," Meola said. "We know what they're going through."
The Mutiny didn't give up in the final 15 minutes. Ralston, Hejduk and Alan Prampin peppered the goal. In the 87th minute, Ralston launched a shot from point blank, but Meola came up with the save while lying on the ground. He scooped up the loose ball just before the Mutiny could put it away.
That's the way it goes for 1-7 teams.
"At least we're not peaking too soon, that's for sure," Hejduk said. "There's no use making any more excuses. I guess we just have to play better."