Dan Metzger made his first team debut for the New York Red Bulls in the team's 3-2 win over New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. He entered the game for Alex Muyl in the 93rd minute - deep into stoppage time, with his side seeking to hold on to a surprise lead established just minutes earlier by Gonzalo Veron.
"It was definitely a rush: didn't get to play a lot, but I did what I could in the five minutes I had to help my team and was just glad to walk away with a win," said Metzger after the match.
The 23-year-old midfielder's assignment for his first-ever appearance in MLS was much as you might expect under the circumstances. Metzger's instructions from Jesse Marsch weren't complicated:
Help clean up anything loose, gave me someone to mark and it was basically just help Felipe in the middle and to defend and just get us forward, look to the flanks, look to get Gonzi [Gonzalo Veron] up the field and get us out of pressure.
Metzger did the job he was asked to do and contributed a handful of minutes to a rare win at Gillette Stadium for RBNY.
The Red Bulls Academy product is not short on soccer experience. He played four years of college soccer with Maryland and a youth international for the USA - most notably perhaps as part of the U-23 team that beat the Netherlands and England on its way to a third-placed finish at the 2015 Toulon Tournament. He passed on any potential Homegrown deal with the Red Bulls and opted for the MLS SuperDraft - in which he was selected by D.C. United with the last pick of the second round in 2015 (42nd overall).
DCU didn't offer a contract and Metzger turned pro with New York Red Bulls II in USL. The central midfielder is one of the few players to have lined up for the II team in every season of its three-year existence. He played an important role for the RBNY reserves in 2016, starting regularly for the team that won the USL league and Cup double - and his work last season won him a contract with the Red Bulls' first team for 2017.
But the change in contract status didn't bring an immediate change to his playing circumstances. For the season to date, Metzger has remained a II-team regular - just as he was in 2015 and 2016 - with the small consolation of occasionally getting to watch MLS games from the RBNY bench.
As one would expect of any player, he wants to play at the highest level he can. He has had to wait a while for his first team debut with RBNY and the appearance was perhaps more symbolic than substantive, but Dan Metzger has passed an important career milestone and is looking ahead to his next opportunity in his first season with a contract in MLS:
It's been good. I've been playing with USL, just like last year. But being full time with the first team in training and everything, it's definitely helped me transition and get me ready for, hopefully, more MLS games - so it's been going well.