Tonight's game between the Mutiny and Colorado is not a showcase of the best Major League Soccer has to offer. Tampa Bay is 3-15-1 and has 10 points, last in the 12-team league.
Colorado isn't far behind at 4-9-6 and 18 points, 11th in MLS. But the Rapids and the Mutiny have plenty in common.
The biggest similarity is Carlos Valderrama, the playmaking and troublemaking midfielder who was traded to Colorado three weeks ago. Goalkeeper Scott Garlick and defender Ritchie Kotschau also were part of the trade that brought goalkeeper Adin Brown to Tampa.
Colorado coach Tim Hankinson was with the Mutiny from 1998 through last season, when he was fired after another playoff collapse. Rapids forward Raul Diaz Arce was with the Mutiny in 1999 and part of 2000 before being traded to D.C. United for John Maessner and draft picks.
It may be two teams at the bottom of the heap, but tonight's game offers plenty of motivation.
"There's extra incentive against those guys, but we want to prove to ourselves that we can play some soccer," Mutiny midfielder Josh Keller said. "We've won like one game in our last 15. We have to prove to ourselves that we can play good soccer."
And the Mutiny believes there's no better team to prove something against than the Rapids. Valderrama provides the biggest motivation. In the weeks before the trade, he earned two red cards, punched Eric Quill in practice and divided the locker room.
Valderrama believed the team couldn't win with its current players and accepted the trade to Colorado. What better way to prove the former Mutiny captain wrong than with a rare win tonight?
"I'll probably shake his hand and ask him how he's doing," Quill said with a smile. "Sure, there's some motivation. Since the trade they've been doing better than we have. But you know what? We have way more problems than just Carlos. He was just one of many. Pick your poison. The other day against San Jose was the bottom of the barrel. To me it was the most disheartening loss of the year.
"I'm so sick and tired of losing. Never in my life have I been through something like this _ little league and all that _ and I've never lost like this."
Tampa Bay has made losing an art form this season. The last road trip included a last-second loss at San Jose and a 3-0 blowout against Dallas. The team hasn't recorded a shutout. It has been outscored 48-23.
A key to beating Colorado is stopping Valderrama, something Keller has done in practice but never in a game.
"He's had guys hanging all over him for 20 years," Keller said. "He's going to get his passes off, you just have to cut off that killer pass. We all want to play hard against him. Nothing dirty, because we all respect him. But it'll be a little competitive out there."
If Valderrama isn't stopped, then it will be up to Brown to keep Colorado off the board. He didn't want to be traded from the Rapids, so a chance to beat his former club provides extra incentive.
"It was a shock to me," Brown said of the trade. "It definitely makes me want to do my best. There's a lot of motivation playing against the team that traded you away."
Perhaps the best motivation for Tampa Bay is that it will have a week off after the game thanks to the All-Star break. After that, there's eight more games to find a motivation.
"To be honest, we're almost like the spoiler," Keller said. "It's not that we wanted to, but that's the role we have. And more than that, we just want to end the season on a positive note."
TRADE: The Mutiny acquired midfielder Danny Pena from the Los Angeles Galaxy for a conditional draft pick.
Pena is expected to be in uniform tonight.
Pena, 33, has spent his entire MLS career with the Galaxy, beginning in 1997.
The Mutiny waived midfielder Wojtek Krakowiak.