Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pelotas' Ponderings: Reflection on historic win in NY

Recovery ends after fans, team celebrate first trophy

(To view additional photos by Danissa Alvarado from Sunday's match, click here)

                                           Photo: Danissa Alvarado

As Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" served as the soundtrack to celebrations in and around the stadium Sunday evening, many supporters old and new were seen high-fiving, hugging, crying and exhaling profusely. Was this real?

For it was the MetroStars side that was formed for the league's inception in 1996 that gave fans a chance to connect, assemble, unite and support a top-flight side that hasn't been seen since the infamous Cosmos spectacle that brought massive crowds to the old Giants Stadium in the 70s and early 80s.

The city's own Carly Simon had her "Nobody Does It Better" track blared around the stadium's speakers at the conclusion of all Cosmos matches at home. The Cosmos won titles, brought in superstars and were the talk of the town until the party ended in 1984.

It was natural that Major League Soccer would've wanted a revival of New York's famous team by bringing back the Cosmos but it's been widely discussed that bureaucratic bickering prevented it from happening. Enter the MetroStars.

To say the Metros endured a tumultuous relationship with the soccer gods would be an understatement. Anything and everything occurred on and off the field leading to the "That's So Metro" phrase that caught on with supporters, casual and hardcore. 

The Metros were able to ink well-known players and provided home-based players as well in all of its years but that elusive MLS Cup--hell, any trophy for that matter--was on everyone's minds from equipment manager to the front office to the most ardent of all supporters.

In 2006, when Red Bull came calling to purchase and rebrand the team to its namesake product, debates ensued. The team lost some fans and in-fighting reached new levels but management made its attempt to continue its focus on the field, splashing out cash for Juan Pablo Angel, Shakira and Wyclef Jean. OK, maybe, the latter two wouldn't solve its trophy aspirations but the Austrian empire wanted to show it meant business.

Before Red Bull Arena finally opened in 2010, a team video showed Angel gawking at its surroundings and boasting about how the environment would do wonders for any team and its quest for professionalism and potential projects for dominance.

The latter years up to Sunday provided glimpses of a "superclub," as former general manager Alexi Lalas dubbed them before unofficially retracting and labeling his next employer, the Los Angeles Galaxy, as the rightful owner to that name. For now. 

The run to MLS Cup in 2008 was a Cinderella story as they were crowned Western Conference champions but came up short under the California sunshine to Argentine legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto and his Crew side. Nevertheless, away wins at Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake showed the league's parity and although the chance to lift silverware came so crushingly close, it was possible. Something was missing.

When favoritism towards European managers died this year, native New Yorker and Metros/Red Bulls ex-backline roughneck Mike Petke was appointed manager after the team's flirtations with overseas candidates. He made sure that Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill knew the ins-and-outs of the long-suffering club. The team combined to produce a chemistry that helped it win its first trophy over the weekend in front of its dedicated supporters, all of whom partied well into the night.

Tonight, the playoffs begin. Ten sides will vy for MLS Cup. For the first time in the league's short history, New York's local side is the team to beat.