Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The phrase "That's so Metro" has become
prevalent to a point in which the average American soccer fan is familiar with
the idiom despite having no emotional ties to the Red Bull New York franchise.
For the layperson, "That's so Metro" is a meme that's been bandied about for
some time to underline New York's penchant for underachievement in its 18-year
existence, dating back to its inaugural season when the club was known as the
New York/New Jersey MetroStars.
Nicola Caricola conceding an own in the dying seconds of the club's first-ever
home match to gift the New England Revolution a 1-0 victory in 1996: That's so
Metro. Entering its 18th season as the only original MLS club without a major
trophy: That's so Metro. Rafa Marquez: So incredibly Metro.
The Metro-ness manifested itself in the Red Bulls' Eastern Conference playoff
series against the Houston Dynamo, starting with the opening leg at BBVA
Compass Stadium on Sunday. New York held a two-goal advantage only to concede
two second-half goals to the Dynamo, erasing all of the good work the visitors
had done to build a comfortable advantage to that point.
The draw set up a must-win match at home for Wednesday's second leg, and it
was going swimmingly after Bradley Wright-Phillips pounced on a rebound
conceded by Tally Hall in the 23rd minute and slotted home the loose ball from
But a misplaced pass from a visibly injured Ibrahim Sekagya nine minutes
before halftime gifted Brad Davis a free shot on goal from 12 yards out, which
he took with great aplomb to equalize for the Dynamo. It was a moment that
encapsulated everything there is to know about a frustrated fan base starved
for MLS Cup glory.
Houston went on to claim a 2-1 win (4-3 on aggregate) in extra time, dashing
New York's realistic hopes of hosting - and hoisting - its first-ever MLS Cup.
What made the Red Bulls' defeat all the more somber was that they dominated
play from the opening whistle, outshooting the Dynamo 23-9 on the night.
"We didn't finish," Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said after the match. "I
think we were a bit off on our crossing, our passing. I think we were a bit
too urgent for most of the night instead of calming the match down. At the end
of the day, they did what they had to do to come in here and get a result. And
our hats are off to Houston."
But while New York's hangover will be one of sorrow in the wake of Sekagya's
early holiday gift to the Dynamo and the club's inability to convert a
plethora of scoring opportunities, the legacy of the 2013 season should be
remembered as anything but Metro.
The Red Bulls finally broke their long-awaited silverware drought this season
by finishing atop the overall MLS table to clinch the Supporters' Shield. That
it was achieved under a first-year head coach, a man who is just three years
removed from an entirely domestic 13-season playing career, is even more
Petke opined that the Red Bulls were victims of their own errors in isolated
incidents, something that would cost any team dearly in a playoff format.
"It was individual mistakes, and they happen," Petke said. "That happens a lot,
and it happens to everybody. A missed crossed, a bad touch. Whereas I don't
think we saw (much) of that during the year, as in years past, it seems to have
crept up on us in the playoffs."
Therein lies the overriding point. With two separated prizes awarded over the
course of an MLS season, a club can attain a piece of silverware by either
being the best team over eight months (Supporters' Shield) or five weeks (MLS
Cup). Mistakes are magnified in the MLS Cup playoffs due to the small timeframe
of the competition, which is why New York's compounded errors over the two-
legged series with Houston cost the club.
But that does not take away from the fact the Red Bulls achieved a major feat
this season by winning the Supporters' Shield. They were the best team in the
league for the longest period of time, and no postseason misfire can erase
the club's name on the Shield.
And with a strong nucleus of veteran talent and a budding coach that
understands the MLS landscape at the helm, perhaps it's time that a new phrase
is coined in Harrison, N.J.: So not Metro.
The Sports Network