Really? Metro scores two, beats Salt Lake
April 18, 2009
Yes, really. Predictably, it would take a matchup against the only franchise never to have beaten Metro for the team to break out of its early-season slump. Saturday's game with Salt Lake had all the elements we've come to expect from Metro's battles with Utah's MLS representative: fast play, multiple goals, and dubious intervention by the officials. In the end, it was just what the doctor ordered for this ailing Metro side; what they do to build off this win in the upcoming week will illustrate whether or not tonight's performance is seen as a fluke.
Finally, the team on the field began to resemble the lineup that was projected in the offseason. After much anticipation during the season's first month, Jon Conway was tapped to mind the goal in favor of the injured Danny Cepero. Carlos Mendes was re-inserted alongside Kevin Goldthwaite in central defense, with Jeremy Hall returning at right back due to Carlos Johnson's red card and Alfredo Pacheco finally making his debut on the left. In midfield, the only change made was the subtraction of "Hard Man" Pietravallo, allowing Macoumba Kandji to start up top alongside Juan Pablo Angel.
The changes proved effective immediately as Metro would strike in the second minute. Dane Richards took a long throw from Hall up the endline and attempted a low cross that Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando cleared into the path of Kandji. The sense of relief and elation over the early goal was apparent in the celebration that immediately followed.
The goal appeared to sustain Metro's early energy via the additional chances that they created. Jorge Rojas rattled the woodwork in the 17th minute with a blistering shot off a free kick, and Angel's aerial ability featured prominently a couple times with newfound service from the wings. The arrival of Pacheco, who was ubiquitous in the early part of the game, seemed to raise Khano Smith's level of play, at least in the first half.
The wide-open play that began in earnest during the first stanza carried over into the second, but this time it was Salt Lake that was most dangerous from the outset. An atypically aggressive Conway rushed out to stifle Yura Movsisyan, who looped the ball over the keeper and appeared destined for goal. Credit the awareness of the much-maligned Goldthwaite, as he foiled Movsisyan's chance for glory at the last minute with a lunging upward kick that cleared the ball off the line.
Seven minutes later, Metro would take a commanding two-goal lead off the foot of Angel. A slick give-and-take heading toward the box with Kandji left the ball at Angel's feet as he approached the endline, and a clinical finish from a difficult angle was a resounding reply to the pundits that wondered if the 33-year-old had lost his touch.
Osorio's questionable decision to sit Angel in favor of Luke Sassano with thirty minutes left in the match ended up looking smart when Hall was sent off with an unnecessary red card in the 66th minute. Seth Stammler slid back to partner with Goldthwaite and Mendes covered Hall's position on the right for the remainder of the game. Danleigh Borman and John Wolyniec would see minimal time as late-game replacements for Smith and Richards, respectively. Salt Lake responded aggressively to the man advantage but could not find a way past Conway, who made two very impressive saves as time wound down.
Just as we would not rush to judgment after the club's rocky start, we will not do so after one good outing in five tries to date. That being said, some of the pieces appear to be falling into place with players returning from injury and suspension as well as those finally overcoming international transfer snafus. The compressed schedule the team faces, with four games over nine days starting on Thursday in Kansas City, will do much to validate or refute the possible turnaround that was on display this evening.
Lineup: Conway, Pacheco, Goldthwaite, Mendes, Hall, Stammler, Smith, Richards, Rojas, Kandji, Angel. Subs: Sassano, Borman, Wolyniec.