Obscure Metro Files: Thomas Dooley and Marcelo Balboa
June 12, 2015
As MLS talks about its 20th anniversary, we look back at the 1990s and the US national teams of those years. Isn't it amazing how many of those players were involved with Metro at some point? Tab Ramos, Tony Meola, Mike Sorber, Claudio Reyna, John Harkes, Jeff Agoos, Alexi Lalas: players, coaches, executives, clowns...
And then there are the subjects of today's Obscure Metro Files, two players whose stint with Metro was just a blip on their career radar.
Long before the dictatorship of Jurgen Klinsmann, Thomas Dooley was the original German American, playing for Kaiserslautern, Bayer Leverkusen, and Schalke. A son of an American father and a German mother, his heritage was discovered prior to the 1994 World Cup. He immediately slid into the center of the American defense. In 1997, Dooley decided to end his career in MLS, and was allocated to Columbus. Mostly based on reputation, he was named to the MLS Best XI in his first two seasons. In that second year, he captained the ill-fated US team at the 1998 World Cup. Entering the 2000 season, he was hitting the ripe age of 38... which meant Metro was primed to acquire him.
Dooley wasn't acquired for his well-traveled legs or his receding hairline; he was acquired because he spoke German. You see, the MetroStars signed another 38-year-old, the one and only Lothar Matthaus, and felt that he needed a countryman. So Mike Duhaney, 13 years Dooley's junior, was sent to Columbus in return.
We're not sure if Dooley and Matthaus became friends during their lone year with Metro. Dooley ended up playing in 20 league matches, mostly in defensive midfield. By the playoffs, he was mostly a spectator, appearing for a total of 77 minutes over two games. No goals, two assists, and an absolutely forgettable year that ended with retirement -- first his, then Matthaus'. Currently, Dooley coaches the Philippine national team... there are worse jobs out there, we guess.
Before Marcelo Balboa became one of the worst soccer announcers in the history of the English language, he was one of the best defenders in America history. His career spanned three World Cups, a stint with Mexico's Leon, and six seasons with Colorado that started in the league's inaugural year. By 2002, he was 34, and Colorado decided to dump him. Metro traded a third round supplemental pick for a man who was capped 127 times, on paper an equivalent of giving up a piece of chewing gum for a gem. On paper.
All that Rapid coach Tim Hankinson said of trade was that "with the trade of Balboa, (we) free up money." "To get a born leader like Marcelo Balboa, one of the best defensive players in American history, makes us a substantially better team," said Metro GM Nick Sakiewicz. Spoiler alert: it didn't.
You see, Balboa was injured. The seriousness was not clear; in fact, every week the team sent out vibes that he is close to playing. (Sounds like a certain current player, no?) Games came and games went, Metro went from first in the East to the verge of missing the playoffs... and then we had the season finale, a game in New England. Metro needed a tie to make the playoffs. Down 3:0 with five minutes left in the game, Balboa finally graced the field in Metro colors. It was the last five minutes he ever played. One of the best careers in US soccer history came to an absurd end.
Still beats what Lalas gave this franchise, right?