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Trade winds finally blow a scorer into Tampa Bay

Since Roy Lassiter was traded away, Mutiny has pined for a scorer. Raul Diaz Arce has arrived and seems to be a cure-all for the MLS team's ills.

Mention the name Roy Lassiter to Mutiny coach Tim Hankinson and his face falls into his cupped hands and his head shakes from side to side in disbelief.

It has been more than a year since the infamous trade that sent Lassiter, Tampa Bay's all-time leading scorer, to D.C. United for veteran midfielder Roy Wegerle. Wegerle has retired, while Lassiter remains one of the most dangerous forwards in Major League Soccer.

There aren't many days that go by Hankinson doesn't hear about how bad a trade that was.

But for the first time since the trade, Hankinson doesn't have to cringe every time Lassiter puts another ball in the net. He finally has a scorer of his own.

Raul Diaz Arce was traded from San Jose to the Mutiny on July 19 for forward Alejandro Sequeira. Before the trade, Diaz Arce had four goals in 18 games. Since joining the Mutiny he has five goals and four assists in four games.

Against New England July 31, Diaz Arce had two goals and two assists in a 4-1 win. He has scored in every game since joining Tampa Bay.

"As happy as D.C. was to get Roy Lassiter, we're just as happy to get Raul," Hankinson said. "For us, the trade was a no-brainer. The guy has proven he's one of the best scorers in the league."

In 3{ seasons, Diaz Arce has 65 goals, five behind Lassiter for the all-time lead.

But with San Jose, he suffered through his worst stretch as a professional, scoring once in 14 games.

Diaz Arce is at a loss explaining his turnaround.

"I don't understand what's going on," Diaz Arce said. "I ask myself everyday, "What's up?' I look different here, I'm playing different here. In San Jose, I don't know what was going on. That question was always crossing my mind."

In Tampa, all of the ingredients were in place. Carlos Valderrama is an inventive midfielder who needed a scorer to pass to. Musa Shannon and Mauricio Ramos are capable scorers, but play better with the pressure elsewhere.

Diaz Arce has been the missing link in the Mutiny's struggling offense.

"I think he is," midfielder Steve Ralston said. "Just look at how he's played since he's been here. And with him playing well, that just makes guys like Musa and Mauricio and myself play better."

Hankinson also likes Diaz Arce's work in practice.

"He's been training like a madman," Hankinson said. "I've never seen anything like it. I've have not been around a player who has trained with this much focus. Sometimes it's like, "When can I get him off the (practice) field?' "

Diaz Arce returns to D.C. today, where he spent his first two seasons and helped United to two straight MLS Cup championships. A victim of the salary cap, Diaz Arce was traded to New England last year before being traded to San Jose before this season.

He played in D.C. once this year with the Clash. He scored the deciding shootout goal in a 2-1 win April 17.

He's looking forward to returning.

"I feel great when I play there," said Diaz Arce, a Salvadoran who draws a big following in D.C. "The fans have always treated me well. Hopefully, we can play well and the fans will be on our side."

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