Dan Metzger missed out on the last game New York Red Bulls II played - against Orlando City B on April 14 - nor was he in the squad the next day for the first team's match against D.C. United. Where is Dan Metzger? RBNY head coach addressed the question after the team's training session on Wednesday, April 19. Per video posted to the club's official website:
Dan's had a little bit of an injury this week
Fair enough. No biggie.
But Marsch continued:
We had a big talk with him in the off-season. We thought that there was going to be potential for him to be a good fit around here. He's had some success with USL, but he was eager to prove himself at an MLS level. He's done really well in training, he's done really well in USL games; he continues, I think, to establish himself with our group.
It'll be interesting now as the season goes on - if we can find a way to get opportunities for him, to give him a chance. It's going to be about how he continues to perform in training and how he continues to perform in USL games.
But we Like Dan. We like his mentality, we like what he brings to our overall group - so we feel very confident that we've got some really good players in that spot on the field.
Dan Metzger is not a Homegrown player in the sense that he is not on a Homegrown player contract with RBNY. But he is an Academy product - one who decided to try his luck in the SuperDraft after college rather than land back with the Red Bulls. As he told MetroFanatic.com at this year's Media Day:
I thought it would open up more opportunities for me. I knew there were a bunch of guys they were looking at at my position, so I figured it would give me more options to play right away
It didn't work out that way: selected with the last pick of the second round by D.C. United of the 2015 SuperDraft, Metzger didn't make it past preseason with the MLS team that drafted him. Ultimately, he landed back with RBNY, but with the II team in USL, not MLS.
An ACL injury shut down his 2015 season, but also extended his contract, essentially locking him into close to a year of rehab and another season with NYRB II. As he told MetroFanatic, that was the experience that focused his attention on the first team:
Once I tore my ACL, I knew I had another year with my option. Towards the end of the year, once we finished and we won, I started to talk more and more with Jesse and the coaches and my agent, and we finally got it settled.
He was a regular for NYRB II's all-conquering 2016 USL Champion team, and he turned that into a first-team contract. He had taken a more circuitous route than he'd hoped for, but Dan Metzger was finally playing in MLS.
Except he hasn't actually played in MLS yet. He is be maybe fourth or fifth on the Red Bulls' depth chart at the central midfield position: behind Felipe, Tyler Adams, Sean Davis, and arguably Sacha Kljestan (who is an option to drop back to midfield if necessary). Rookie Arun Basuljevic is also a central midfielder, and currently plays with NYRB II in USL, where he looks very capable in the position.
Metzger has yet to make a first-team appearance for RBNY, and when Marsch talks about finding opportunities for the player, that a challenging proposition because the roster is stacked at central midfield.
Metzger was a regular selection to US Men's Youth National Teams from the U-18 age group to the U-23s. He has never made any secret of his ambition to play at the top level in the USA, nor did he disguise from MetroFanatic that his path to a contract with a team in MLS not the one he'd imagined for himself:
I wouldn't say happy, obviously I would have liked to be in the league the whole time, but that's how these things work out sometimes, and I think it made me a stronger player and a better person. So I'm happy where I'm at now.
He wants to play first-team soccer. That ambition is doubtless part of what RBNY likes about him: he has set himself goals and proved he'll work to overcome setbacks to achieve them.
But he's not at RBNY to make up the numbers. He's here to play for the first team. And he's already tried other options when it looked as though the Red Bulls were just too full at his position to give him a shot. One would guess he'll look elsewhere again if RBNY still has too many midfielders for Metzger to break into the MLS lineup.