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Tampa Bay Mutiny 1997
17 W, 15 L
2nd, Eastern Conference
Rookie of the Year: Mike Duhaney
Balanced scoring was the hallmark of the 1997 Mutiny. Tampa Bay had seven players in double figure scoring, led by team captain Carlos Valderrama, who tied Marco Etcheverry's league record for assists with 19 en route to a 25-point season.
Midfielder Steve Ralston increased his point total by six from last year, scoring 22 points, including 12 assists, fifth best in MLS. Forward Roy Lassiter battled through an injury-plagued season to score 22 points, including a team-high ten goals. The Mutiny forward was at his best in midseason, scoring six goals and two shootout goals in a nine-game stretch. He finished the season as MLS's third all-time leading scorer with 80 points.
Fellow midfielder Gilmar also chipped in with 22 points in only 16 games, one of the best points-per-game (1.38) ratio in MLS. If there was an unsung hero on this year's team, it was the spunky Brazilian, who inspired wins from his teammates. The Mutiny were 11-5 with Gilmar in the lineup.
Forward Alan Prampin turned into a brilliant acquisition. Coming from Kansas City for Steve Pittman during the last offseason, Prampin scored seven goals and three assists for 17 points in 24 games, 12 of them and the Mutiny got a big lift from midfielder Sam George, who scored three goals in seven games after coming from New England in a mid-August trade.
The Mutiny also got full seasons from defenders Frankie Hejduk, Mike Duhaney and Frank Yallop with Yallop once again being the best player in MLS to have never scored a point. Adam Frye made season-long contributions while rookies Musa Shannon and Eric Quill made individual contributions at key times.
Shannon ended the year with his first MLS goal in his first start while Quill, the team's Project 40 player, also made his first start in the year-ender at Columbus on Sept. 28.
Injuries robbed the Mutiny of Lassiter and Hejduk for extended lengths of time and took Joao Batista and Derek Backman away for the year. Combined with National Team callups, the Mutiny rarely had their full team together all year. But when they did, they were one of the best teams in Major League Soccer.