Obscure Metro Files: Mohammad Khakpour and Sasa Curcic
August 14, 2013
We previously detailed the monstrosity of a trade that Metro made in 1999 in order to sigh Lothar Matthaus. When the German decided to stay away until 2000, Metro was left with a glut of cap space and international slots. With the team holding a deceptive 5-11 record (only two of those wins were in regulation, so Metro was really 2-11-3), GM Charlie Stillitano had to do something. Enter Khakpour and Curcic. "It's a pleasure to welcome a pair of hard-working professionals like Curcic and Khakpour to our club," Stillitano said. "There's no doubt that these two will strengthen our squad, both on the field and off, with their experience and dedication to the game."
Khakpour was an Iranian international who played for his country against the US in the 1998 World Cup. He was 30 when he signed; his gray hair made him look at least 50. Apparently, he decided that "The Great Satan" was welcoming enough for him, so to America he went. "Khakpour will provide maturity and stability for our back line. He's a seasoned veteran with a great knowledge of the game, and we think he's the complete defender," Stillitano said.
Curcic's name was better known. The Yugoslav international had a productive spells in England with Bolton, followed by tumultuous ones with Aston Villa (he called the transfer to Villa, "the biggest mistake I've made in my life") and Crystal Palace. By 1999, he had worn out his welcome, so when Metro came calling, he obliged. Stillitano's take? We're glad you asked. "Curcic is an enormous talent with great vision and skill, and his ability to attack from the midfield and create scoring opportunities for others will be welcomed."
Khakpour debuted in a 2:0 loss at Chicago on July 10, Curcic in a 1:0 loss to Miami two weeks after. The former game was #2 in a losing streak that would reached a disastrous 12 in September. Neither Khakpour nor Curcic would help. The Iranian would end up starting the rest of the way in central defense, playing 15 games. The Serb played nine, scored two, assisted two, got injured, and was shelved for the season.
Nevertheless, the duo somehow got high-profile write-ups. For some reason, the Associated Press took interest in Khakpour. "He's a very quiet guy, so quiet I don't even have any stories to tell about him," fellow defender Mark Semioli told AP. "Part of his personality, being quiet, is that he brought some stability," said goalkeeper Mike Amman. "He doesn't get too excited when things aren't going well." Can you feel the excitement?
Oh, but there was some excitement with Curcic! The head-shaved, dyed-blond-goatee-sporting Serb was called "skillful, ferocious and a bit wacky" by the New York Times. He sported tattoos of Satan... and Dalai Lama. He wore a giant white watch that spoke Japanese... except Curcic didn't understand Japanese. Living in New Jersey, he wanted to get to Manhattan faster to enjoy the nightlife... so he asked the team for a wave runner. "People see me and think I have an image like Dennis Rodman," Curcic said. "But this is my image. I don't want to copy anyone. The copy is never good as the original."
Both held out hope for next year. "This is the most unlucky team I've been on in my life," Khakpour said. "Next season we'll have to start again. I want to be here next year." Curcic added, "I'm looking for this team to win the championship next season." He didn't make it.
After 1999, Stillitano was fired, and Nick Sakiewicz took over. "We're having a difficult time seeing how Sasa is going to fit into our salary-cap picture and the overall picture of our starting 11," the new GM said. "He makes a lot of money. Stylistically, right now we need goal scorers. He's more of a playmaking midfielder. We need guys who can put the ball in the back of the net." Curcic ended up with Motherwell in Scotland and retired after a stint back in Serbia. He has since become a staple on reality shows, winning his country's version of Celebrity Big Brother.
Khakpour did make it to 2000, but not without some tribulations. He was released in the offseason, and re-signed to a smaller salary. After starting five matches, he was dumped for good. "We have decided that it's best for both parties involved to just part ways," Sakiewicz said. Khakpour retired from soccer as a player, opened his own academy, and had short stints coaching back in Iran.
"Strengthen our squad, both on the field and off"? Whatever you say, Charlie...