Obscure Metro Files: Julian Gomez and Russell Payne
September 26, 2006
As we stare into another trophyless end to the season (barring a major miracle that at this point we would be wise not to expect), our thoughts sometimes linger back to the end of 2000, a season that started so poorly but was turned on its head by the coming of Clint Mathis; a season which saw Metro one game -- and one (wrong?) offside call away from the MLS final; a season that has not been topped (as sad as it is to say) before or since.
But amidst the relative glory that was 2000, amidst Mathis, Lothar Matthaus' St. Tropez trip, the arrivals of Steve Jolley and Daniel Hernandez, the ancient Thomas Dooley, the disaster of the #1 overall pick Steve Shak, the original return of Roy Myers, and the two-headed Colombian beast of Adolfo Valencia and Alex Comas, are two players whose names are incredibly obscure in both Metro and MLS lore; yet two players who played a role with the club down that 2000 stretch. Julian Gomez and Russell Payne. Who?
Colombian-born Julian Gomez, listed as a forward, was a midseason signing from the Brooklyn Knights of the PDL. Gomez came off the bench in three league and two Open Cup matches, even assisting on a goal in the semifinal defeat to Miami, and actually scoring two in a friendly against the Rough Riders. He was Byron Alvarez before Byron Alvarez; a useless late-game sub who was completely overmatched in MLS (not surprising since he made the jump from the fourth division to the top). After being mercifully cut by Metro during the offseason, he bounced around the USL, had a stint with the Rough Riders, and never saw much playing time anywhere. Makes one wonder what he was doing in MLS in the first place; perhaps the only one who can answer that question is former Metro coach Octavio Zambrano.
The arrival of Russell Payne was necessary after the despicable Mamadou Diallo incident that saw Mike Ammann lost for the remained of the regular season and the the beginning of the playoffs. With backup Tim Howard going to the Sydney Olympics, Metro suddenly didn't need one goalie -- they needed two. After having numerous problems securing USL players on loan, they settled on Paul Grafer of the Rough Riders, but not before trying Russell Payne from the Boston Bulldogs. And Payne got a chance to prove what he could do in the last eight minutes of the game immediately following the Diallo stomp, with Metro beating the Rapids 5:1. He immediately fouled a player in the box, with Colorado scoring on the ensuing penalty kick, then allowed another goal one minute from time for a sparkling goals against average of 22.50. Interestingly, his previous MLS action up to that point was with the Rapids a year earlier, when he played 14 minutes, allowed two goals, one a penalty kick.
So Payne was deemed horrible, Grafer came in and promptly won a playoff series with Russell as his backup. Released from his loan after the season, Payne would come back to Metro as a 6th round pick in 2001, but was let go before the season started. He went to Europe, playing in the lower divisions in Germany and then in Ireland's top league, where he was considered one of the best keepers (which says a lot about Ireland's top league). He is now an assistant coach at his alma mater University of Maryland.
As we still wait for a season to top 2000...