Make it three
November 6, 2014
Two. That's the number of times in fourteen postseason appearances Metro has progressed past the first round of the playoffs. It's amazing to consider that of all the memorable postseason games the team has played over the years, only twice did those matches take place outside the context of the conference semifinals. Equally galling is that despite employing the greatest player in league history for the past four and a half years, not once in that time did Metro escape the dreaded first-round exit.
Don't get us wrong, it could always be worse, as fans in Toronto can attest. At least Metro is practically a postseason fixture, falling short only twice in the past 15 seasons.
Of all the teams that have kept Metro from advancing -- and they have come in various forms, from both conferences -- two tormenters stand out in particular. New England has ended Metro's season three times; one of those ties still haunts us at night.
Even with that, they don't hold a candle to the Scum.
In four playoff series defeats, Metro's most memorable and disgraceful playoff exits have come at the hands of their bitter rivals.
At this point, the landmark Metro-DC playoff series in the league's inaugural season has been inspected and discussed ad nauseam, understandable as the genesis of the rivalry was contained within. Frequently overlooked, however, are the two series that took place on either side of the MetroStars/Red Bulls divide.
In 2004, a 4:0 aggregate defeat provided the platform for the Scum to take their fourth and most recent title. In the first leg, in front of 11,000+ expectant fans, a blown offside call gifted Earnie Stewart a breakaway goal that Metro never recovered from. An equally limp performance at RFK the following weekend ensured the team headed into the offseason with many questions and the sight of watching their most hated enemy lift the MLS Cup.
Two years later, after the Austrian invasion, Metro nicked Kansas City for the final playoff spot on the last day of the season. Facing top-seeded United, Metro barely showed up for the first leg at Giants Stadium, putting themselves in the daunting position of having to overcome a goal deficit on the road in DC. Amazingly, they did just that, with Jozy Altidore equalizing late in the second half. The game never made it to extra time though, as six minutes from time Jon Conway allowed himself to be beaten to the short side, ending another campaign in ignominy.
Of course, most fans remember the most recent battle between these rivals in 2012. After managing a road draw, Metro should have had the advantage coming back home for the second leg. Then Hurricane Sandy demolished the area, "Clever" Hans Backe made his "do I have to?" face, Metro somehow screwed up a penalty kick, notorious douchebag Rafa Marquez got tossed (again!), and they flubbed away a late goal to drop the series.
This time, things have been different. Metro was dominant in their 2:0 victory this past Sunday at Red Bull Arena. Thanks to the new away goals rule, they would force DC to score four goals to advance with a single Metro goal on Saturday. Desperate for something to cling to, the Scum supporters are dragging out images from those past series, praying their fortunes will turn around in their raccoon-infested hovel.
Unfortunately for them, relying on past glories will do no good this weekend. We're watching a Metro side playing with unusual focus, the Golden Boot winner is scoring in bunches, and a legend in his (likely) final season is willing his team to unforeseen heights.
This is their chance to right some of the club's past failures. The captain, out there on two bad Achilles tendons, deserves better. The fans, who will show up in record numbers at RFK on Saturday, deserve better.
Make it three, Metro.