Obscure Metro Files: Chris Unger and Michael Butler
June 10, 2005
We at MetroFanatic love our Metro history. No wait, we don't love the history, there is only so much losing one can take; but what we do love is that now, in the tenth MLS season, there finally is a Metro past. There finally is a group of fans who were not with this team from the beginning. There finally is a sense that Metro is not a fly-by-night event.
The MetroStars are closing in on 160 players, and that's only those who have played in a match that counts. And while everyone must (or should) know Roberto Donadoni, Tim Howard, Clint Mathis (and also Mamadou Diallo, Edmundo Rodriguez, and Branco, but for completely different reasons), there is a large percentage of these players who in fact were fly-by-night; they came, they went, and they were forgotten. But some of these players did leave much of an impact, be it good or bad. And this is a column about such players. "Obscure Metro Files" will be a more-or-less regular feature to look at such players, starting with Chris Unger and Michael Butler. What unites these two? They are two of only a handful of Metro players to score in their first match with the team. For both, it was their only goal in Metro uniform.
Who was Chris Unger? He became one of the unlikeliest of Metros when he made his debut on June 30, 1996, in Columbus. The team was going through a transitional period, jettisoning a lot of deadwood collected by Eddie Firmani and replacing it with new blood. Some of these played a game or two and were gone, but one of the few who stayed was Unger. What makes his relative success amazing is that he was already employed by the Metros. He worked in their front office.
That game in Columbus signaled a turn-around in Metro midseason. They won 4:0, the first goal coming on a long long beautiful Nicola Caricola blast. Tony Meola saved a penalty kick by Doctor Khumalo, and Chris Unger scored his first and only Metro goal. Tab Ramos sent a long pass into the box, and David Winner, one of the worst goalies in league history, came out to the penalty spot to get the ball. Unger, the Princeton alum who played for the Tigers under Bob Bradley, beat Winner to the ball, and tapped it into the empty net as the Crew keeper was helplessly lying on the ground. Unger would play out the season with the Metros, often on the left flank, sometimes in midfield, sometimes on defense, and even in attack. He moved back to the front office after the season, and like many former Metro employees, has since left for parts unknown.
Who was Michael Butler? Drafted by the Columbus Crew in the 1999 Supplemental Draft (the one that brought Petter Villegas and Nansha Kalonji to Metro), he did not make the team and played in the A-League for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, the Hershey Wildcats, and then for the Long Island Rough-Riders. And it was from the Rough-Riders that the shorthanded Metros called up Butler for a game in Tampa on July 4, 2001. The Metros were coming off a seven-game league winless streak, Mathis was injured, and the team was reeling. The Metros were so shorthanded that Martin Klinger started! Butler came in for him in the 66th minute, with Metro down 1:0 on a Diallo (spit!) goal. But Billy Walsh tied it off a Daniel Hernandez pass in the 85th, and then in the third minute of stoppage time, it was Butler time. The forward headed in a Hernandez cross to give the Metros a last-minute victory. 24 minutes, one goal.
And those 24 were the only minutes Butler would spend in a Metro uniform. He was soon sent back to the Rough-Riders, and then forgotten... Except when someone brings up the goals-per-minute stat.