Obscure Metro Files: Wellington Sanchez and Barry Swift
June 23, 2005
With Alexi Lalas now in charge of everything Metro, we flashback to the 1998 season, his lone as a Metro player. Roaming the Metro defense, red mane and goat beard in tow, and promoting his CD whenever he could, Lalas was a sideshow on the field and off. However, he is definitely not obscure; but Wellington Sanchez and Barry Swift, two players who played a total of 40 minutes, are.
Sanchez played ten of those minutes, which is remarkable considering the brouhaha that surrounded him coming to Metro. With Roberto Donadoni coming back to Milan following the 1997 season, the search for a new "savior" was on. And he was found in Ecuador, an international midfielder with the first name of a meat dish. After a long negotiation process, he was signed in time for the Metro season opener at LA.
But it was Jim Rooney who stole the show, scoring in his debut, as Metro came back to lead the Galaxy until the 70th minute, when Cobi Jones decided to turn it on and knocked in two in a nine-minute span to push LA ahead. A minute after the last goal, we saw Sanchez in a Metro uniform for the first and last time. Wearing Donadoni's #7, he finished out the game, not distinguishing himself in the short time he was on the field. And amazingly, he was traded the Galaxy the following week, for Eduardo Hurtado (who, interestingly enough, wore "TANQUE" on the back of his shirt for that Metro opener; thankfully, he wasn't allowed to keep that after the trade). We all know what happened to El Tanque (who actually forged a pretty good partnership with Giovanni Savarese before completely falling apart in 1999, but since 1999 never happened, we'll go on...), but Sanchez' MLS career was much less remarkable. He played a total of 15 games with the Galaxy, was not able to keep a starting spot, had a failed try out back with Metro during the 2000 preseason, spent some time on loan in Mexico, and then went back to Ecuador... Where he resurfaced on their 2002 World Cup team. Go figure.
The Swift story is even weirder. A star at Martin Luther King High School in New York, he terrorized the opposing defenses and had local scribe Paul Gardner drooling over his untamed talent. Barry joined the MetroStars for the 1998 season as the second Project-40 player in team history (Tim Howard would be the third, talk about a difference in careers) and told his teammates that the league promised him a Mercedes for signing.
Swift was 21 in 1998, and just out of high school, where he was playing against players two and three years his junior. No longer able to play against kids, he couldn't make it onto the field, playing 30 meaningless minutes in two late-season games (the first in a horrible 5:0 home loss to DC, when the team gave up on head coach Alfonso Mondelo, and the second, the first game under Bora Milutinovic, a drab 0:0 tie to finish out the season). He was cut soon after, not understanding the ramifications (some reports tell Swift of asking what time was practice tomorrow, this after getting his release), and disappearing into obscurity.
That obscurity included a stint with the long-forgotten Maryland Mania of the A-League and a failed tryout for MetroBlack (and if you can't make MetroBlack...). The larger impact of his signing is that it tied down the Metro Project-40 numbers for a couple of years, leading to them missing out on a number of quality players, including DaMarcus Beasley. But it's not like Metro hasn't recovered from that period. Oh, wait...