The cursed #9, again
June 7, 2017
Back in the turbulent year of 2006, we wrote a story of Metro players who wore #9, entitled "The cursed #9". Well, 11 years have passed, and #9 has been worn by 20 players, the most of any number in team history. One of those players was one of the greatest Metros ever; the other 19, well...
It all begins in the inaugural year of 1996, when Peter Vermes was named Metro captain and took #9. Obviously, the number of usually reserved for forwards, which Vermes was pre-MLS. With Metro, he usually played right midfield and right back, scored just one goal (plus the memorable shootout winner in the playoffs vs DC, of course), and was unceremoniously dumped in the offseason.
In 1997, Manny Lagos switched from #13 to #9, and spent the bulk of the year injured, with no goals to his name. He was taken by Chicago in the expansion draft. In 1998, Marcelo Vega was signed among much fanfare; he turned out to be fat and lazy. Even 22 years into Metro history, the Chilean stands as one of the worst signings ever. He scored only one goal and ate himself out of MLS at the end of the season.
Metro had to wait until mid-1999 for the next #9: Henry Zambrano. The Colombian was one of the three too-little-too-late signings, as the season had already fallen into the abyss. Zambrano did manage to score three goals, and then was traded to DC Scum for an allocation.
2000 was a little different: Lothar Matthaus came in, claimed #10, meaning that Tab Ramos had to give it up and switch to #9 for a year. Ramos did score three goals in all competitions that year, but went back to #10 after Lothar retired. #9 was taken over by Alex Comas (who was signed a year before with an allocation acquired for Zambrano, and wore #23 in his first season). The mustached Colombian, who was more-or-less prolific in 2000, struggled mightily in 2001, scored just two goals, and was dumped in mid-season. In came Gilmar, who Nick Sakiewicz signed after meeting the ex-Tampa player in the airport. The Brazilian scored no goals, but did earn red cards in two of the eight games he played.
Byron Alvarez was signed in 2002 and proved to be one of the worst, unskilled players in Metro history. Yet somehow 2003 was worse, when Jaime Moreno decided he had enough in DC and asked for a trade. Bob Bradley took him, Moreno scored two goals, spent most of the year fat and injured, and cried back to the Scum at the end of the season. He is still a fast bastard.
Sergio Galvan Rey is remembered fondly by some fans, but his 2004 was absolutely terrible: Metro ponied up a large salary and transfer fee for him, but he only scored two goals (this is becoming a trend). His 2005 was a tad better, as he scored eight, but the writing was on the wall already.
Which brings us to 2006, when three different players wore #9. It started with Thiago Martins, who was acquired before the season for Ante Razov in one of the worst trades in Metro history. (Alexi Lalas and Mo Johnston didn't think Razov would produce; Bradley gladly took him to Chivas USA, where produce he did.) Martins played just one game, and was traded to Colorado for Jean-Philippe Peguero (Peguero Jean-Philippe?). The Haitian actually performed well, scored six goals and just 12 games... and was sold to Brondby of Denmark in mid-season. His replacement was the one and only John Wolyniec. The beloved striker was sent to Columbus in the Razov deal a year prior, but returned wearing an unfamiliar #9. He scored three times in 2006 before switching to his usual #15 after the season.
And then, of course, came Juan Pablo Angel, who wore #9 for four years, 2007-2010, scored 62 goals to smash the team record, and was terrific and classy on and off the field. That ended the curse of #9... wait, no, it paused it.
In 2011, Luke Rodgers exceeded all expectations, scoring ten goals and becoming one of the most beloved figures in club history. Unfortunately, he couldn't return in 2012, when #9 went in mid-season to Sebastien Le Toux. Ugh. The whiny Frenchman pouted and begged out, so back to Philly he went after the season. He did score a goal on his debut... and none after.
Fabian Espindola came in 2013, became the first Metro to score two on his debut, but lost his starting job before the end of the Shield-winning season. He did score 11 goals, which, for this list, is quite an accomplishment. DC Scum took him in the re-entry draft. In 2014, Andre Akpan switched from #15 to #9. He did not play much, did not score, and was sent to New England in mid-season.
The next season, the mysterious Cameroonian Anatole Abang was signed. A player who did not exist before appearing as a trialist, he did manage to score four in 2015, but went off the cliff a year after, exiled to the cold winters of Denmark and Finland. His replacement at #9 was acquired this year... Fredrik Gulbrandsen, a loanee from supposed sisters at Salzburg, who failed to score in twelve games, and has now been sent packing.