Metro at the Millennium: Petter Villegas' dream
January 17, 2008
It's not often that we get to tie a Metro historical article with current soccer news, so we are going to take this rate opportunity and profile Petter Villegas, whose already-strange career recently just took another turn into weirdness.
How does one describe Petter Villegas? Talented? Erratic? Cocky? Versatile? Loyal? Unconventional? Little did we know that a player we saw for a glimpse in 1996 would come back three years later and become a major part of team for the next three and a half season.
For it was 1996, in the league's inaugural season, when we first discovered Villegas. One of the multitude of midseason call-ups by new coach Carlos Quieroz, he played in two games, starting two, before being sent back to the minors; Metro needed the international slot that he occupied to sign Antony De Avila.
In 1999, Villegas, no longer counting as an international, became the first player to return to Metro, doing so via the supplemental draft. During that horrible season, he managed to play in 30 games, but started only ten. Nevertheless, Petter managed to pick up three goals and six assists.
But then 2000 came, little did we know that he would become an even larger part of the squad. With the rest of the team being swept by turnover, the lame parts of 1999 discarded, and better players coming in, Villegas entrenched himself on the right side of the midfield. He would score five goals in that magical season, none more important than the overtime blast to beat Tampa Bay in May.
That goal, coming in a match when Metro went down to early, that goal, the blast from the top of the box, that goal that started the three-game winning streak and set the Metros on one of the best runs in team history, will forever be entrenched in Metro lore. It was one of five Petter would score during the millennium season; he would add five more in 2001, and then played the game of his life in the decisive game versus the Galaxy in the playoffs, scoring his first and only Metro brace in a doomed effort. Seven games into 2002, his Metro career would end, as he was dealt to DC, together with Orlando Perez, for Mark Lisi and Craig Ziadie. Villegas would immediately score for the Scum to help beat Metro, wind up the season in the nation's capital, and leave MLS for good.
But there is much more to Petter Villegas than the above. For those who've never seen him play, imagine a Dane Richards with less speed but a better shot, a Dane Richards who can actually track back on defense but had multiple lapses of emptiness. He played at right midfield, he played at right back, he played at forward. He ran at defenders. He tried to cross. He held a very high opinion of himself.
Two Villegas moments endear him to us; at a game in 2000 or 2001, he came out at halftime wearing #14, his number from 1999... Unfortunately, by then, that was Adolfo Valencia's number, and it took Metro a while to realize the mistake, even as fans were yelling from the stands, pointing to two #14s on the field. The other came in 2002, after his trade to DC, when Petter missed a Scum game for personal reasons, only to appear at a Metro game, at Giants Stadium, cheering for his former team with the Empire Supporters Club. Once a Metro, always a Metro. How many players can we say that about?
But Villegas' MLS career didn't end with his stint in MLS. He went back to his native Ecuador, playing for a number of clubs, including Barcelona SC and Deportivo Cuenca, appeared in -- and helped to win -- an "amateur" tournament at Giants Stadium, and then signed with the Puerto Rico Islanders in 2005 for the team's inaugural season. He's been on the island ever since, which brings us to the "current news" part of the story.
For you see, Petter Villegas had a dream. A dream to represent his country. What country, you might ask? It seems like, any country. He thought he was good enough to play for Ecuador, but that chance never came. He thought he was good enough to play for the U.S., but Bruce Arena did not agree. But now he is getting his chance. He is being called up for Puerto Rico for their World Cup qualifier.
Puerto Rico, one of the worst international teams in the world. Puerto Rico, who is filling its roster with every imaginable player with island ties (former Metros Orlando Perez, Jason Hernandez, and Michael Behonick are on the list, as is, puzzlingly, Taylor Graham). Puerto Rico, to play for whom one needs two years of residency and a U.S. citizenship (which Villegas has now, as opposed to 1996, when having it would have probably kept him on the Metro roster and possibly drastically alter his career).
Godspeed, Petter Villegas. Live your dream. We'll be rooting for you. Viva Villegas.