Obscure Metro Files: Manny Lagos and Ezra Hendrickson
June 2, 2006
When one talks about ex-Metros whose careers took off after leaving the team, two names that often come up are Manny Lagos and Ezra Hendrickson. Both joined Metro after success in the minor leagues, both did not distinguish themselves during their time with the club, both were let go without much fanfare... And both went on to long careers elsewhere, both won multiple MLS cups, and both have at least ten MLS seasons under their belt (although Manny is retired now, while Ezra is still chugging on).
Manny Lagos, a 1992 U.S. Olympian, was acquired by the MetroStars from the Minnesota Thunder midway through the 1996 season, when MLS temporarily lifted regional restrictions on signing USISL players. Lagos immediately stepped into the Metro lineup, and the club went 4-1 in his first five starts, with Manny recording two assists. His contribution went beyond the scoreboard; with Lagos
linking the defense and midfield, Metro looked reborn. But in his sixth match, at Los Angeles, he tore his ACL, and the promising start to his season was cut short.
It took Manny a long time to get back on the field. He made his 1997 debut in mid-year and went the rest of the way as a starter, playing in 15 league and three Open Cup matches. However, Lagos was not nearly as effective as the year before. After the season, he was deemed as damaged goods and was left unprotected in the expansion draft. Manny was taken by the Fire and promptly missed all but one game of their double-winning expansion campaign. He was traded to Tampa Bay midway through the 1999 season (with another ex-Metro, Paul Dougherty, going the other way). His career took off in 2000, as Lagos had a eight-goal, seven-assist season for the Mutiny, and a trade to San Jose a year later saw him better the totals with eight goals and eight assists, plus three and two as the Quakes won the MLS Cup; Manny got his first U.S. caps that year as well. He would be a part of a cup winner again two years later, before a trade to Columbus and retirement after more injuries in 2005.
Ezra Hendrickson was drafted by the Metros with the fifth pick in the 1997 Supplemental Draft, three picks before DC plucked NYC resident Carlos Llamosa. Hendrickson, a forward at college, spent the previous year with the New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers of the USISL. Now converted to a central defender, the gangly Ezra started four out of his eight games for Metro, and was absolutely rancid; he was good at one thing: earning the opposing team penalty kicks by handling balls in the penalty area. Ezra was released in late June, re-signed five days later, then released again in a month. LA immediately picked him up, and Hendrickson's career path transformed.
You see, World Cup winner Carlos Alberto Parreira, who will guide favorites Brazil in search of their sixth title later this month, was completely incompetent during his year in head of Metro. While constantly bitching about the lack of good American players (especially wing defenders) and wasting $1 million on utter failure Joao Luiz, he had a perfectly good wing defender at his fingertips in Ezra (of course, Ezra is an international for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but he was never counted as a foreigner in MLS). But Parreira never tried Hendrickson in the outside; it took the move to another coast for Ezra to re-discover his game. And he flourished in his five-plus years in LA, making the right back spot his own, having two five- and one four-goal seasons, being named club MVP in 2001, and helping the Galaxy to the 2002 MLS Cup. A trade to Dallas in 2003, some time in the A-League, then a return to MLS when he helped DC Scum to the 2004 Cup; expansion draft move to Chivas USA; and this year, a trade to Columbus, where it seems all ex-Metro careers end up nowadays.
Sometimes it's just amazing how often our coal is turned into some else's diamonds...