Brutal penalties end Metro's season
November 4, 2023

New York (7:8) Cincinnati
Barlow Boupendza
11.04.23 · Playoff

In 2003, Metro's Open Cup run ended in the Round of 16, on penalties. Metro's Leagues Cup run ended in the Round of 16, on penalties. Metro's MLS Cup run? Well, it wasn't officially on penalties, it will go down as an 2-0 series loss, but, let's face it, it ended on penalties.

Of course, we had to get to penalties first.

What's sad is that Metro really outplayed league-topping Cincinnati for long stretches of the match. What's head-scratching was the completely inconsistent refereeing from Victor Rivas, who missed a clear penalty on John Tolkin early in the game and seemed to blow his whistle at random throughout the match. What's amazing is that Tom Barlow scored a playoff goal for the second straight playoff game. It came in the dying minutes of the first half, on a rebound from a Frankie Amaya shot.

The little chances that Cincinnati got, Metro did well to keep away, with Carlos Coronel making a point-blank safe off a set peace a little before Barlow's goal. A fantastic track back from Dylan Nealis thwarted a breakaway inside the box in the second half.

The turning point came in the 75th minute, off a Metro free kick in midfield. Somehow, Reyes failed to get the ball past the first man, and Cincinnati went the other way. Multiple Metro defenders failed to stop the attack, and Coronel was beaten to tie it up. Complete disaster was averted in injury time, when Cincinnati looked to have scored directly off a corner kick... only for the referee to realize that Coronel was fouled on the play. Of course, real disaster was still to follow.

After Omir Fernandez and Frankie Amaya nailed their shots, Coronel made a fantastic save on Cincinnati's third. Sean Nealis and Cameron Harper followed, but the visitors scored both of theirs, meaning it was up to Tolkin to win it all. Alas, the man whose spot pick put Metro in the playoffs rang it off the post, and off to extra innings we went.

Dylan Nealis, Elias Manoel, and Peter Stroud all responded to Cincinnati openers, and when Coronel made another fabulous save in the 9th frame, it looked like the win was theirs. Serge Ngoma, making just his second appearance all year (the first being last week), completely missed the net. Cincy made the next one, and Andres Reyes, the team's last field player to shoot... (Maybe Coronel should have been given the chance first?) Reyes's shot was easily saved. And that was that.

That was that for another season. Yes, this was a bitter defeat, but this was a deeply flawed team that was clearly not capable of a long playoff run. Troy Lesesne's future does not seem as secure as it did a week ago. Changes have to be made at all major attacking positions. Most importantly, Denis Hamlett needs to be fired and Jochen Schneider needs to prove that he is more than a Red Bull puppet. As it was made abundantly clear, Metro is one of the 16 best teams in MLS.

And that's just not good enough.

Lineup: Coronel, Tolkin, Nealis, Reyes, Nealis, Duncan, Edelman, Amaya, Luquinhas, Manoel, Barlow. Subs: Ngoma, Stroud, Harper, Fernandez. Shootout: Fernandez, Amaya, Nealis, Harper, Tolkin, Nealis, Manoel, Stroud, Ngoma, Reyes.

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