Perry Van Der Beck was 18 when he moved to Tampa to play for the Rowdies of the North American Soccer League in 1978. The club was dominated by European players, but Van Der Beck wasn't going to be pushed around.
"We all thought, "Who's this young lad in the locker room,' " said Peter Anderson, who played for the Rowdies from 1978-80. "We were all surprised by the skill level he had. And he was very determined. You could tell he was going to have a long career."
Twenty-three years later, Van Der Beck has gone from a rookie sensation on a successful team to the rookie coach of an unsuccessful team.
In between he played six years for the Rowdies, spent time on four indoor clubs and was on the U.S. national team. A native of St. Louis, Van Der Beck has lived in Tampa since 1978.
His playing career was filled with success, but his coaching career started on a sour note.
His first game as coach was hauntingly similar to Alfonso Mondelo's last as Mutiny coach. Hoping for at least a point against San Jose Saturday, Tampa Bay gave up a goal in the final seconds of regulation, losing 2-1.
On July 4, the Mutiny lost 2-1 in the last seconds to New York/New Jersey, which prompted Mondelo's resignation.
Van Der Beck, 41, didn't accept losing as a player.
"Perry was a very tenacious player," Anderson said. "If he set his mind to do something, he'll do it. It's very easy for a player to keep fighting when your team is winning, but when the team is losing it's more difficult. Perry always kept fighting, no matter what."
He'll need that attitude with the Mutiny. Tampa Bay is 3-14-1 and has lost four straight. There have been defensive lapses, missed scoring opportunities and misfortune.
Van Der Beck said he understands the team is low on confidence and has been forced to use younger players. But he's not going to accept excuses.
"It's very frustrating," Van Der Beck said. "It's the way we're losing. You look at games like Columbus and Kansas City (blowout losses). It seemed like guys just didn't care and we lost by a wide margin. But lately it seems the guys care and we're still getting beat in the last five minutes. We can't clear the ball, we have a mental lapse and we lose the game. That's never acceptable."
Van Der Beck has been a Mutiny assistant since 1998. But as the coach he has become more vocal at practice and after games. Especially after the San Jose game.
"I wasn't soft on them after the game," Van Der Beck said. "There were plenty of chins on chests, but they have to know this is unacceptable. We've lost three games this way."
Van Der Beck will coach the Mutiny for the rest of this season. The club has an option for another year, which could be exercised at the end of the season.
With 10 games left, it's likely too late for a playoff run. But Van Der Beck is going to have to show that the team has improved to stick around next season.
So far, he has the support of the players.
"He's a fair coach," said midfielder Steve Ralston, who has played for all five of the Mutiny's coaches. "He expects us to do well. He wants to get the most out of us. We all want to play for him."
And Van Der Beck wants to build a winner in his hometown.
"I want nothing more than to bring a winner to Tampa," he said. "It's going to take some time, but this team can win. There are some quality players here."
TONIGHT: MUTINY AT DALLAS
WHEN/WHERE: 8:30; Cotton Bowl.
TV/RADIO: Sunshine; WWBA-AM 1040, WAMA-AM 1550 (Spanish).
RECORDS: Mutiny 3-14-1, Burn 6-7-4.
COACHES: Mutiny _ Perry Van Der Beck. Burn _ Mike Jeffries.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Mutiny _ F Mamadou Diallo, M Steve Ralston, G Adin Brown, D Steve Trittschuh, M Eric Quill. Burn _ M Chad Deering, F Jason Kreis, F Ariel Graziani, G Matt Jordan, D Eric Dade.
NOTES: Mutiny M Josh Keller and D Craig Demmin are out because of yellow card points accumulation. Any player with 21 points in a season must sit one game. That forces Van Der Beck to use the team's 19th starting lineup in as many games. D Scott Cannon and M Alberto Munoz flew to Dallas to replace Keller and Demmin. Dallas D Lubos Kubik (left Achilles'), G Chris Snitko (left ankle tendon) and D Ryan Suarez (right quad) are doubtful. Dallas is winless in its past five (0-2-3). Brown's 10 saves Saturday against San Jose tied the team high this season. G Matt Nyman remains out with migraine headaches. Carolina Dynamo keeper Jon Lowery again will back up Brown. The Mutiny has lost four straight, and seven straight road games. The series is 8-8-0. The Mutiny defeated Dallas 4-2 in the opener.
_Compiled by Rodney Page.