First XI: Epic rivalry
I can say with pride that I've witnessed just about every game between the MetroStars/Red Bulls and D.C. United in the history of Major League Soccer. It is, without question, my favorite rivalry. Why's that? Because you just seem to witness things that don't seem possible. Here's a First XI of epic moments from the first (and best) rivalry in MLS:11. May 5, 2001: A three-goal comeback by Metro with 11 minutes left.
The fabulous fan-site MetroFanatic.com calls this game "The Miracle at East Rutherford." Just when it looked like the MetroStars were moving toward level ground in the rivalry, D.C. comes into Giants Stadium and takes a 2-0 lead through a pair of goals by Jaime Moreno. With 11 minutes remaining, the natives are restless and starting to say "same old ..." Suddenly, heroes emerge in Metro shirts. Clint Mathis beats his former teammate Mike Ammann on a free-kick to make it a one-goal game. Nine minutes later, rookie Rodrigo Faria scores his first MLS goal to make it a 2-2 game with just two minutes remaining. And just when it looked like Metro would be well-satisfied with a draw, local boy Petter Villegas scores the game-winner. One of the most exciting wins in team history.10. Oct. 1, 2005: A sad day for the author of this column.
In need of a "statement" win and on a home-unbeaten roll of 10 consecutive games (and fresh off a stirring 5-4 victory over the Revolution), Metro grab a 1-0 lead on a Mike Magee header in the 19th minute. D.C. tie the game on an own goal at the beginning of the second half and a Ben Olsen goal in the 55th minute made it 2-1 D.C. Metro coach Bob Bradley subbed in an extra attacker, Sergio Galvan Rey and it appeared to work when Galvan Rey scored an apparent equalizer -- if not for the linesman's flag. In the game's final four minutes, it all fell apart for Metro. Another Ben Olsen goal made it 3-1 and Jaime Moreno added No. 4 for good measure. A final scoreline of 4-1 spelled the end of Bradley's tenure with Metro.9. Oct. 1, 2003: Wolyniec scores winner at Rutgers in Open Cup semifinal.
At the time, it was arguably the most-important goal in club history. Why? Because the big knock against Metro back in '03 was that they had never been to a cup final. In fact, they were the only MLS club in existence (Tampa Bay had folded) who had never made it to a final. So, when John Wolyniec scored a game-winner in the 88th minute to lead the way to the Open Cup final, it was a big deal for those in red-and-black stripes.8. Aug. 30, 2008: Moreno misses PK with 10 minutes left, 0-0 final score.
So, this one seems a bit obscure. But ... it is pretty amazing that it took Metro nine seasons before they could get a clean sheet at RFK Stadium. And who knew Jaime ever missed a penalty?7. Oct. 8, 2005: With Mo in charge, Djorkaeff scores winner, Metro lives.
The 2005 Metros were nothing if not resilient and their 2-1 victory at RFK proved it. With their playoff lives hanging in the balance and their coach Bob Bradley out of the picture, the MetroStars got a goal from the much-maligned Sergio Galvan Rey (playing only because Ante Razov was sitting out a suspension) and a game-winning bomb from Youri Djorkaeff. This victory set up the MetroStars' dramatic final-day victory against Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center, which secured their spot in the postseason.6. Oct. 29, 2006: Gomez scores in 86th minute to give D.C. playoff win.
With their first-round playoff series tied at on aggregate at 1-1 (D.C. won in N.Y. 1-0 on a goal by Christian Gomez, then Jozy Altidore put RBNY 1-0 up in DC), D.C. got a dramatic equalizer (and aggregate winner) from Gomez, propelling United past the team that was then coached by their former coach Bruce Arena, who just finished his eight-year tour of duty with the U.S. national team. The N.Y. club concludes its first season as the Red Bulls.5. Sept. 24, 1996: Vermes limps Metros to playoff shootout victory.
It doesn't get much better than this for old-time Metro fans. The exciting conclusion to Game 1 (best-of-three back then, kids, with Game 1 at home for the lower seed and Games 2 and 3 away) of the first-round playoff series. After a thrill-a-minute 2-2 draw, the shootout goes 11 rounds (both 'keepers had already shot) and the Metros have to call on gimpy captain Peter Vermes, who is actually receiving on-field treatment during the tiebreaker. Urban legend has Vermes saying to referee Esse Baharmast, "If I shoot, we win." But the reality is Vermes asked a question, "Esse, if I shoot (and score, do) we win?" Check out the result here.4. Sept. 16, 1998: D.C. beats Metro 5-0 in N.J.
D.C. has done a good job of putting the final nail in the coffin of more than one Metro coach. On this day late in the '98 season, United put a 5-0 hurting on the Metros, getting penalty kick goals from Roy Lassiter and Jaime Moreno and insult-to-injury tallies from Ben Olsen and A.J. Wood, with an own goal sprinkled in, and coach Alfonso Mondelo was out of work. There was but one game remaining in the regular season when Mondelo was given the sack. His replacement Bora Milutinovic managed the final game of the season (a 0-0 Metros win (by shootout) against New England) and watched on as they were drummed out of the playoffs by Columbus.3. July 5, 2003: Gaven in goal briefly in Stunning Metros Victory.
Though he wasn't the first coach to exploit MLS's "three-plus-the-keeper" sub rule, Bob Bradley became the villain when it actually worked. Having used all three subs on a hot day at RFK, and having watched defender Kenny Arena sent off after receiving his second yellow card in the 35th minute, Bradley subbed 17-year-old Eddie Gaven in for 'keeper Tim Howard for the overtime session, with Howard moving into a field player position. When the ball was kicked out of bounds, Howard returned to the goal, where he made an absolutely ridiculous save to preserve a tie ... no ... the ball is cleared upfield and Gaven is off to the races and scores the first goal of his MLS career. You can watch the goal -- and Rob Stone go nuts -- here.2. April 26, 2009: Another D.C. shocker in the Meadowlands.
Something of recent vintage as we work our way to the finish line. Up a goal in the 90th minute, D.C. erupts (or, more accurately, Red Bulls implode). With time running out, Luciano Emilio equalizes and Red Bull heads drop at the thought of only coming away with a point. Ah, but there's more. An egregious miscommunication between defender Alfredo Pacheco and goalkeeper Jon Conway opens the door for a Chris Pontius winner. This is the kind of moment that never seems out of the question when these two teams meet.1. Oct. 2, 1996: Rob Johnson fouls Marco Etcheverry in waning moments, D.C. prevails in playoffs.
And it all started at the edge of the box, 13 years ago, at RFK Stadium. With both benches trying to figure out the order for their shootout lineups, Metro forward Rob Johnson makes an ill-advised slide tackle attempt on Marco Etcheverry. The referee points to the spot, Raul Diaz Arce converts, and the next thing you know, D.C. United are a dynasty. And Metro/Red Bulls are left wondering and wanting. ... Of course, you can watch it here and hope Thursday night's game brings yet another epic moment.