Work in Sports
'Big Mama' does it again
By Jeff Green, CNNSI.com
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Mamadou Diallo does more in 22 minutes than most forwards do all day.
The Tampa Bay Mutiny striker came into Saturday's Major League Soccer All-Star Game after halftime and left 22 minutes later with the MVP trophy wrapped up -- two goals, an assist and a strained lower back.
If there was a lesson learned for Diallo's opponents: Don't leave him with something to prove.
The Senegalese forward, unknown in the United States when he joined the league this year, leads MLS in scoring with 18 goals in 21 games. However, he was not voted into the starting lineup in balloting by fans, who chose New York/New Jersey's Adolfo Valencia and D.C. United's Jaime Moreno.
He was not pleased.
"It's not very good that the people vote for the players," he said Saturday, pointing to the advantage held by larger cities such as New York.
And in Saturday's lighthearted contest, with the score 4-4 in the second half, the unwieldy, 6-foot-4 forward became even more perturbed.
Attempting to take the ball around West goalkeeper Zach Thornton in the 58th minute, Diallo got tangled up and tumbled to the ground in the penalty box. Diallo appealed to referee Paul Tamberino, gesticulating unsuccessfully in his effort to draw a penalty kick.
It was the closest thing to a controversy seen in the match.
"I think it was a penalty," Diallo said.
Did West coach Bob Gansler agree?
"Definitely not, because I'm very subjective," Gansler joked.
Maybe, maybe not, shrugged East coach Octavio Zambrano.
"It looked like a penalty," Zambrano said. "But in these types of games, it really does not matter much."
Was Diallo seriously upset in such a non-serious affair?
"No, I was not angry," he said. "I wanted to make a show for the fans."
Diallo took his time getting back into play, sulking back up the field. But just a minute later, he scored to spark six unanswered goals for the East on the way to a 9-4 victory.
On the scoring play, Diallo took a short chip over the defense from Mutiny teammate Carlos Valderrama, beat the offside trap as defender Marcelo Balboa shot his arm in the air, and broke in one-on-one to score past Thornton.
Two minutes later, Diallo took another pass from Valderrama, the same player who serves him balls with the Mutiny, beat Peter Vermes with one touch and Thornton with another before sliding the ball into the net.
"I think Carlos is the best player in the world," said Diallo, who earlier in the season got into a protracted argument with Valderrama during a game. "Carlos is a very good friend of mine. He speaks French and I speak French.
"I know him very well. When he kicks the ball, I [always] know where he will put the ball. My job is just running and trying to score the chances I have, because he is a great player.
"Sometimes, if he give you the chance, and you don't score, he gets very mad."
Two weeks ago, Diallo unveiled a new blonde hairstyle.
"I did it for Carlos, because I want him to see me more in the field."
Just four minutes after his second goal, in the 65th minute, Diallo took a pass from Brian McBride on the left and dribbled at Jason Kreis and Balboa. Beating them to the end line, Diallo sent a short cross for the Fusion's Jay Heaps to bury.
Diallo's five points match the All-Star Game record set by Preki last year.
Diallo left the game in the 67th minute with a strained lower back, but said it was not serious.
"I have to take it easy, because I have eight games left, and it's very important for Tampa," he said.
Diallo's scoring run in MLS is reminiscent of that of former Columbus Crew forward Stern John, who came out of nowhere to lead the league in goals for two seasons. MLS then sold John to England's Nottingham Forest for a multimillion dollar transfer fee.
Diallo, who has played in Germany and Norway, already has drawn interest from French club FC Metz, but he said he'd be happy to stay in the U.S. -- if the circumstances are right.
"Football is a business," Diallo said. "If the league wants me to stay here, and gives me a good offer, it's no problem.
"In the beginning, nobody knew me, and now I've had to make my name here. I'd like to stay here.
Diallo already might be the most dangerous striker in MLS.
"He's certainly got attributes to be," Tampa goalkeeper Scott Garlick said. "Obviously, in this kind of a showcase, he's going to excel because he's got a lot of space.
"He's scored 18 goals in 18 games. That to me shows that he's doing something right."
Zambrano was impressed with Diallo's performance.
"He showed that he's not all about strength and power. He's also about finesse and showmanship," Zambrano said.
Diallo was all smiles after the game.
"I am very happy because it is my first time in an All-Star Game," he said. "It was very good to meet some defenders here, because always they kick me around in the field. I can be friends today, and next time they won't kick me."