Obscure Metro Files: La Manga Cup
November 8, 2005
While previous Obscure Metro Files looked at little known former players, this edition will take a look at an obscure tournament, La Manga Cup. Although it happened less than two years ago, many Metro fans have no idea that it occurred. But they definitely should; not only does La Manga Cup represent the only meaningful trophy won by the Metros, it can represent a whole lot more.
In their pathetic history, the Metros won all of three "titles". The first was an Eastern Conference Regular Season championship in 2000 (Metro finished ahead of THREE other teams), and we all remember the beautiful vase they got to commemorate it. You can put flowers in it and stuff. The next was the 2001 MLS Preseason Tournament, and we are sure that trophy was very nice too. And who can forget the 5:0 triumph over Dallas in the team's second game! If it had only meant something...
But this last one did. For in 2004, the MetroStars participated in La Manga Cup, a yearly tournament that has been held in Murcia, Spain, since 1999. Teams from countries with a summer season (among them Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Russia) take part. In 2004, nine teams did. The Metros were placed in Group A with two Norwegian clubs, Viking Stavanger and Bodo/Glimt.
After Bodo and Viking tied 0:0 in the opener, the MetroStars faced the Stavanger club and lost, 1:0, finishing the match with just nine players. But in their final group game, they came on top of Bodo, 3:1, behind two goals from Joselito Vaca and one from Olivier Occean (who impressed so much in the tournament that he was nabbed by Odd Grenland and never played for Metro again). With their superior goal difference, the Metros advanced to the semifinals as the best second place team. And that's when the Ukrainian giants Dynamo Kiev awaited them.
Kiev was coming off a Champions League campaign in which they defeated Arsenal, and played against Metro with multiple players who participated in the European run. But an Amado Guevara penalty kick and an Occean goal off a John Wolyniec feed gave Metro a two-goal first half advantage. Dynamo then answered twice. With the game tied in the 73rd minute, Kiev's defender Goran Sablic tried to block an Occean pass that ended in his own net and gave Metro the lead for good.
Now came the final, and their old foe, Viking. A 1:0 game again, but this time, it was Metro who got the upper hand, scoring on a Jeff Parke header off a corner kick in the 27th minute. Guevara was named tournament MVP. The trophy was raised high. And all rejoiced in the Spanish sun.
So it's just a preseason tournament, you say? Perhaps. But name another MLS team that won a tournament against European competition? Or one that won a tournament staged outside North America? That's right. There are none. Metro was the first. It was preseason, but so what? After ten years, why don't we try to find a ray of sunshine in this pile of crap?