Well, it looks like we might not be getting that red and black third kit we've pining for after all. In a wide-ranging, three-part interview with Empire of Soccer's Dave Martinez, RBNY Head of Commercial Operations Marc de Grandpre explains in depth the organization's various plans to recognize the team's soon-to-be two-decades-long history. And while it seems unlikely that fans will get to see a throwback red and black jersey next year, de Grandpre does make the revelation that there will be some sort of Hall of Fame to recognize past players. So, it being an off week, what better way to fill the void than by looking back on the past 18 and a half seasons and deciding who is Metro Hall of Fame worthy.
First, the parameters. Metro HOF, at least at this point, will be restricted to players only; while some clubs, such as Kansas City with former manager Bob Gansler, have elected coaches to their halls, it is safe to say that RBNY has not had any coaches with longevity, success, or impact to warrant a place, at least yet. Furthermore, the criteria for selection follows standard protocol for other clubs/leagues; a player must not only have been successful with the club, but moreover must have done so over a sustained period of time. While this writer's perspective is somewhat limited -- my avidity for Metro dates back to about halfway through the 2002 season -- I will do my best to use the tools at my disposal, including personal experience, statistics, game film, anecdotal evidence, and Metro lore, to determine which players deserve a place in Metro HOF. Finally, for the purposes of this article, I will assume that the inaugural class will be restricted to five inductions, and that players must be retired from professional soccer to be eligible for induction (and so, yes, assuming Thierry Henry retires, I will count him as eligible).
Before I get into the five deserving inductees, perhaps it is best to first discuss, which players have narrowly missed out, and why. First, there are those who played for a long time with the club, making valuable contributions, but who don't quite make the final list of five. So, while they won't make it into this edition of Metro HOF, I want to recognize Seth Stammler, John Wolyniec, and Dane Richards for their outstanding runs with the club. Next, there are those who have had a couple great years with the club, but either did not sustain that level or were not at the club long enough. Within this group there are those who left the club early on in their careers or came too late in their careers to have played for enough years at a high enough level to warrant inclusion. In the former category, it is safe to include Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis, Mike Magee, Tim Ream, Juan Agudelo and Eddie Gaven, each of whom demonstrated enormous promise with Metro (and some of whom are still active so they wouldn't be eligible anyway) but spent the prime of their careers elsewhere. In the latter category, Eddie Pope, Roberto Donadoni, "El Tren" Valencia, Youri Djorkaeff, and Rafa Marquez (just kidding) had spectacular but brief stints with the team that fall short of meriting a prized spot in the inaugural Metro HOF class.
With those players discounted, my list is down to ten. Next on the chopping block is Tony Meola, a New Jersey native, who performed well for Metro in two different stints. Had he spent the intermediary period, in which he won an MVP award and the MLS Cup in 2000, with Metro, Meola would most likely have earned induction into the hall. With nine players left, my next two cuts are fan favorites who performed admirably on the left side of midfield, Joel Lindpere and Dave van den Bergh, each of whom showered fans with memorable moments and hard-working performances. Unfortunately, each were traded, the former to Chicago and the latter to Dallas, too early for them to have had enough of an impact to earn a higher place on this list. The penultimate cut, Giovanni Savarese, managed an impressive strike rate with the Metrostars in the team's first three years of existence, scoring 41 goals in just 85 appearances. Unfortunately for the Colombian, his stay with the team -- only three seasons -- ultimately hurt his chances of cracking the top five. At this point, it is very hard to distinguish between the remaining six contenders, but thus is the nature of the job. So, while fully deserving of the title of Metro Legend, three-time All-Star Tab Ramos narrowly misses out on HOF inclusion. Nagging injuries throughout his seven year Metro career prevented Ramos, one of the best midfielders the US has ever produced, from achieving enough to oust the five remaining legends who follow. So, without further ado -- I do apologize for all that ado, but one must be thorough when engaging in a frivolous, totally imaginary discussion -- the five members, in no particular order of the Metro Hall of Fame:
Mike Petke, Defender, 169 Appearances, 5 Goals, Backyard Soccer 2000 Bludgeoner
The Long-Island native and current RBNY head coach emerged as a leader and a fan favorite early on in his career, which he began with the Metrostars in 1998. Petke did not only play a crucial role in the team's backline, helping to lead Metro to a regular season Eastern Division title, but also endeared himself to fans with his rugged play, strong work ethic, and audacity, best exampled by his "Crime of the Century, Revenge is Coming" undershirt following Mamadou Diallo's horrific assault on Metro keeper Mike Ammann. Although not a keen tactician, his passion for the club and his successful first year in charge as coach have further endeared him to fans, permanently enshrining him as a Metro legend and a fitting inductee in the Metro Hall of Fame inaugural class.
Juan Pablo Angel, Forward, 102 Appearances, 58 Goals, Glorious Goal-Scorer
One of the first designated players in MLS history, Angel's move to RBNY did not garner as many headlines as those of other DPs such as international superstar David Beckham or teammate and USMNT captain Claudio Reyna. Although the Aston Villa veteran could not outshine them in the headlines, he indubitably outperformed them on the field, earning the MLS Player of the Month Award in his first month with the team. Though the team experienced its peaks -- the 2008 MLS Cup final -- and its valleys -- that dismal 2009 season -- during his time with the team, Angel was a constant goal threat and a spark plug to an offense that without him was lifeless. The team's all-time leading scorer, the recently retired Angel is fully deserving of a place in Metro history.
Clint Mathis, Midfielder/Forward, 93 Appearances, 39 Goals, Mohawked Messiah
A player with the personality, celebrity, and on field flare to be considered a true superstar, Clint Mathis drew attention for everything from his audacious hairstyles to his dazzling skills, exhibited in his MLS-record five goal performance against the Dallas Burn and his Maradona-esque Goal of the Year in 2001. From the cover of Sports Illustrated to the World Cup in Korea to the turf of Giants Stadium, Mathis stood out in a way that few other players in MLS history have. Although he suffered some dips in form and notably engaged in an altercation with supporters, Mathis will be remembered by fans as an outstanding talent, a spunky individual, and a player worthy of induction into the Metro HOF.
Amado Guevara, Forward, 103 Appearances, 32 Goals, Honduran Hero
Upon coming to the league in 2003, Guevara filled a Donadoni-sized hole in the Metrostars' midfield that had been left vacant since the Italian's departure in 1998. The Honduran international facilitated Metro's offense and garnered league-wide praise, earning him the 2004 MLS MVP award in his second year with the team. Guevara led the team to the playoffs in each of his four seasons with the club, and remains the greatest creative attacking player in club history.
Thierry Henry, Forward, 112 Appearances, 46 Goals, Legend
When Thierry Henry came to RBNY in 2010, fans and observers from around the world wondered what his impact would be. Would he come to New York and give it his all instead of just coming for the money? Would he come anywhere close to playing at the level he reached while with Arsenal, Barcelona, or the French national team? Would he be able to bring a trophy to a team whose cabinet was up to that point barren? The answer to all three is yes. Henry -- first as a goal scorer and increasingly over time as a creator -- will go down as one of the greatest players in club history, despite coming at a relatively late age, playing with elegance, skill, and panache, earning a place in Metro Hall of Fame to go along side the countless other honors he has earned on the international stage.
So, those are my five. Agree, disagree, or have anything to add to the discussion? Post your opinion in the comments below. As an added bonus, I've listed my HOF five inductees for the other clubs that will be celebrating their 20th anniversaries next year as well.
DC: Jaime Moreno, Ben Olsen, Raul Diaz Arce, Marco Etcheverry, Eddi Pope
Dallas: Bobby Rhine, Jason Kreis, Oscar Pareja, David Ferreira, Mark Dodd
Colorado: Pablo Mastroeni, Marcelo Balboa, Chris Henderson, Mark Chung, Paul Bravo