Obscure Metro Files: Jacob LeBlanc and Mike Nugent
April 23, 2008
We remember 2003 with some fondness here at MetroFanatic. A gutsy Metro team that riled up five straight wins early in the season, huge late goals and overtime winners, and a trip to our first final. The season ended with so much promise; of course, we now know it was for naught. That Open Cup final still stands alone in Metro history, and the foundation that Bob Bradley tried to build in 2003 was dismantled -- partly by himself, in an effort to improve the team, partly by the ones who followed him, in an effort to... dismantle the team.
But let's go back to the before the 2003 season started, as Bradley tried to rebuild the team through the draft. Through various trades, he collected a total of eight draft picks, taking six players who would contribute to Metro down the line: Ricardo Clark, Mike Magee (who miraculously is still on the team), Eddie Gaven, Tim Regan, Kenny Arena, and the first subject of today's article, Jacob LeBlanc, a Project-40 draftee from Virginia whose afro was sadly trimmed early in the year.
So when Metro opened the season against Columbus, three of those rookies were in the starting lineup: Magee, Clark, and... no, not Gaven, but LeBlanc, who played right midfield. Metro lost the opener 1:0 on a late goal, and that was Jacob's last start... until the meaningless last game of the regular season against New England. He played a total of nine games, and just 244 minutes in all competitions. But he did manage to score two goals.
If we just look at those numbers, two goals in 244 minutes, that averages to .74 goals per game, or fourth best total in Metro history for any player who played more than 90 total minutes. But LeBlanc's goals were anything but memorable: first, an unremarkable tap-in, came in midseason garbage time during a 3:2 loss to Chicago and made the final margin closer than the game ever was. The other came in that meaningless finale, the last goal in a 5:2 debacle as Metro rested most of its starters.
Another player who started in that game is today's second subject, striker Mike Nugent (not to be confused with the Jets kicker). Drafted by the Fire a season earlier out of Princeton, Nugent did not see much time with Chicago, and came to re-join Bradley in the offseason, signing a developmental deal.
Although those 90 minutes against the Revs were his only league appearance for Metro, Nugent is actually in select company: he is one of, at this point, 13 players to score on their Metro debut. He did so in the Open Cup, when, after coming on as a late sub, Nugent scored the third in a 4:0 win against the Mid-Michigan Bucks. He would have to wait until that regular season finale, more than three months later, for his second Metro appearance (that is, if we ignore friendlies, in one of which he scored the winner against the Chinese national team). His third and last match came in the playoffs as Metro bailed out to the same Revolution. Nugent's totals stand at three games, 130 minutes, and one goal... Or .69 goals per game, sixth best for players who played at least 90 minutes.
But those gaudy numbers, be it in limited time, did not matter as far as LeBlanc and Nugent were concerned. When the 2004 preseason rolled around, LeBlanc didn't make it past February, and was dropped from the team, his Project-40 status be damned. Nugent actually led the team in preseason scoring with three goals, but ten days after the regular season started, chose to retire at the age of 24. Metro had just signed strikers Fabian Taylor, Cornell Glen, and Sergio Galvan Rey, and it looked like there was no place on the squad for Nugent.
Of course, we often wish that Galvan Rey was as obscure in Metro history as LeBlanc and Nugent were...