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John Wolyniec made you believe in magic

Remembering and honoring the Staten Island native at the heart of the club

Chivas USA v New York Red Bulls
John Wolyniec in action
Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images

When you talk about legends of the club, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Is it his status in world football, what he has done for his respective national team? Or is it the big moments that have put him in the right place at the right time.

Sure here in New York we can talk about historical legends like Giovanni Savarese, Tab Ramos, Tony Meola, Clint Mathis, Thierry Henry, Bradley Wright-Phillips and so on. But this is a man who has proven his worth as a blue-collar goal scorer, and his tactical sense has put him into a position to score those key goals.

I am talking about Staten Islands own in current New York Red Bulls II head coach John Wolyniec. Whenever he was on the pitch, he knew exactly where to be and how to score that goal. No matter how much he was in pain, or how fully fit he was, nothing was going to stop him from converting a goal for the Red Bulls.

It was a Saturday night on September 20th of 2003 as the MetroStars and Columbus Crew battled in a scoreless draw at Giants Stadium. When the second half reached stoppage time, the Metros earned a free kick. With the NFL season beginning in September, the gridlines were already marked.

Honduran International Amado Guevara placed the ball on his 48 yard line, then sent a looping free-kick towards the endzone of the Crew. As the ball was descending towards the net, Wolyniec was running hard to get the ball and delivered a thumping volley that surprised goalkeeper Jon Busch, and went into a celebratory run.

While that moment was the best goal of the 2003 MetroStars season, sadly it didn’t win goal of the year as Damani Ralph of the Chicago Fire, stole that trophy on a chance that wasn’t as momentous as Wolyniec’s sensational volley in the New Jersey night.

But the majesty of the goal allowed me to give him a nickname that encapsulates his ability to turn nothing into something as I called him Woly Magic. From that moment on Woly Magic would pull goals out of his backside as he converted a match-winner in the 2003 US Open Cup Semi-Finals against DC United, a game-tying goal against Houston Dynamo in 2008, as well as the equalizer in the 2008 MLS Cup Final against the Crew.

Yet nothing beats the goal celebration in the second leg of the Western Conference Semi-Finals at the Houston Dynamo when Wolyniec scored and did the Thriller dance by Michael Jackson at Robertson Stadium.

Since his retirement from the game, Wolyniec joined the Red Bulls coaching staff and in 2015 became the head coach of the club’s USL reserve team. In the following season, Wolyniec led his team to the USL Cup Final and won the title at Red Bull Arena.

John Wolyniec is one of us. A hard-working player that wanted to play for his hometown team, to show the league he is just as good as a Henry, an Angel, a Savarese and bring glory to the club. He is a legend and deserved what he has earned.

Thank you Woly Magic.