Obscure Metro Files: Brian Bliss and Shaun Bartlett
December 15, 2005
Usually, Obscure Metro Files looks at players who are obscure not only to Metro fans, but to the most of the soccer world. But that is not the case today; the two players discussed have both appeared on the world's biggest stage, while their careers with Metro were anything but memorable.
The 1997 Metro squad was full of talent; headed by the World Cup winner himself, Carlos Alberto Parreira, it had eight players who played in the sport's most important event, probably the highest number in MLS history. Tony Meola, Tab Ramos, Mike Sorber, Roberto Donadoni, Antony De Avila, Branco, and Brian Bliss all played in the World Cup up to that point; Shaun Bartlett would do so a year later. (Who knows, if Kerry Zavagnin makes the 2006 team, maybe that number will rise even more. But who could have thought so in 1997? Kerry Zavagnin... World Cup?...) So we will look at the two of these players whose Metro career was just an afterthought, Bliss and Bartlett.
Brian Bliss' biggest contribution to the MetroStars was not on the field, but in how he left the team. The veteran, who played one game in the 1990 World Cup in Italy, was acquired midway through the 1997 season from the Columbus Crew for A.J. Wood to shore up the Metros' left back spot (previously patrolled that year by the horrid John DeBrito, among others). Bliss would play in 19 games for Metro, assisting on three goals, and acquitted himself well, for the most part. But when the offseason came, Charlie Stillitano pulled probably the best trade of his forgettable career as Metro GM; he shipped Bliss to Kansas City for a first round pick, who turned out to be Mike Petke. And while Bliss played in all of three MLS games after the trade, retiring soon after, Petke is still the Metro all-time leader in games played and a member of our Metro Best XI. Currently, Bliss is an assistant with the Wizards, and is supposed to be a top candidate for MLS coaching jobs opening up, although he is yet to get one.
Shaun Bartlett's rise to fame came after his very forgettable Metro tenure. The South African striker had a very good 1996 with a terrible Colorado team, as he finished with eight goals and seven assists. But a diminishing role in 1997 saw him only score one in ten games, and he was sent to Metro for a supplemental draft pick. Just three days after making his league debut, Bartlett would score two in the team's first ever Open Cup match, a 3:0 win over Richmond. But the good start did not lead anywhere, as he would only add two league goals the rest of the way. After the season, Bartlett was loaned FC Zurich, and this is when his career took off. He played well for the Swiss club, made the South African squad for the World Cup, and scored two goals in the tournament against Saudi Arabia. The loan deal was made permanent (so at least MLS made some money out of this), and soon Bartlett's continued good play in Switzerland led to another loan, this time to the English Premier League's Charlton Athletic in 2000. A year later, he was signed for good, for a transfer fee of two million pounds, and has been with the club since. Bartlett is also currently the all-time leading scorer for South Africa. Go figure; Mark Semioli scored as many league goals for Metro during that 1997 season.
Of course, all those World Cup veterans couldn't even get Metro into the playoffs... For that is Metro history, for all the promise it always ends with a whimper, not a bang.