Ten Years Ago: Mr. Clean
March 11, 2006

Ok, so we are tired of all the bull. It's over, it happened. Time to move on and through the evolution. But if this biggest week in franchise history teaches us one thing, it's the importance of this history. And so that people don't say that the Metro history has not seen many positives, we will now look at one from the 1996 season: the creation of Mr. Clean.

Coming into the midweek clash with Dallas on June 19th, the MetroStars were in a slump. Gone was Eddie Firmani, replaced by Carlos Queiroz, but the fortunes of the team did not alter much with the coaching change; they have just come off back-to-back home losses with Tab Ramos and Roberto Donadoni not available, a disgusting 4:0 drubbing from Los Angeles in front of more than 50,000 fans (when Andrew Shue had an assist to supplement Eduardo Hurtado's hat trick), and a lifeless 1:0 defeat by San Jose (when the pathetic Nidal Baba had to start in central midfield). The Metro record stood at 4-8, with only eight points, as two of those wins came by shootout.

And then, Rhett Harty shaved his head.

At that point, we knew Harty as a former U.S. youth international midfielder-turned-defender acquired from San Jose after Troy Dayak refused to play for Metro. A starter from Day 1, he was one of the few constants left on the team from the beginning of the season. However, with the team's defensive record being poor at best, it was difficult to throw much praise Rhett's way, or pick him out of a lineup consisting of Matt Knowles, Jeff Zaun, Ted Gillen, and others.

And then, Rhett Harty shaved his head.

On that Wednesday night, regulation ended scoreless, but Knowles and Miles Joseph scored in the shootout to beat the Burn. A week later, Giovanni Savarese and Tab Ramos scored and the Metros beat Kansas City. And four days after that, an epic drubbing in Columbus, as Nicola Caricola connected on a long bomb, Tony Meola saved a penalty kick, and Savarese, Ramos, and Chris Unger all got on the scoreboard in a 4:0 rout. Three games, three victories, three shutouts. And the legend of Mr. Clean was born.

From that point on, the head stayed shaven for the rest of Harty's Metro career. And although the team's defensive record did not stand up to Mr. Clean's debut, Rhett won a special place in the fans' hearts. It was not for butchering his appearance, but for tenacity, hard work, and dedication rarely seen in this franchise. Injuries reduced him to part-time duty in 1998, and being at the forefront of the MLS player lawsuit forced Harty out of the league a year later. He then spent time traveling in Asia, soul-searching and helping out the people of the area. Later, Rhett would move to the west coast and work in a hospital. And for many Metro fans, he remains one of the best defenders and favorite players in the history of the franchise.

We have seen shaved heads since, from Sasa Curcic to Steve Jolley to Jeff Parke. But there will only be one Mr. Clean.

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