Ten Best: Defensive pairings
Petke and Jolley, 2000
October 12, 2018
Aaron Long and Tim Parker are both having excellent seasons, so let's ask: are they the best central defense pairing in Metro history? We went through every Metro season, identified the most used defensive pair, and... read below.
10) Nicola Caricola and Rhett Harty, 1996
The inaugural season seems like a good place to start. The Italian veteran Caricola, best known for own goal(s), and converted midfielder Rhett Harty, best known for his shaved head, became a steady unit as the year went on. Caricola retired after the year, and Harty wasn't able to replicate the quality while partnering various newcomers in 1997.
9) Stephen Keel and Tim Ream, 2011
Ream, who burst on the scene a year earlier (more below) was actually not as good in 2011, but a lot of that had to do with him having to cover for Rafa Marquez. This changed when the unheralded Keel took over for the cologne-peddling Mexican midway through. Somehow, the journeyman went from unsteady filler to a calming presence within half a season.
8) Aurelien Collin and Ronald Zubar, 2016
Considering how bad Collin has been this year, it's easy to forget how fantastic he was in 2016. With Damien Perrinelle injured for the most of the season, Collin was brought in early on to shore up the defense, and shore up he did. The Frenchman almost single-handedly corrected Metro's defensive ills... but this is a list of pairs, not singles. Perrinelle returned late, but wasn't back to full speed, and Zubar was... usually passable.
7) Carlos Mendes and Jeff Parke, 2006-07
Mendes spent seven years with Metro, Parke five, with four of them overlapping. However, they were only the preferred starting pair during two: 2006 and 2007. (In 2005, Metro more often used a three-man backline with Jeff Agoos headlining. 2008 saw the genius Juan Carlos Osorio play Mendes in defensive midfield, until the magical playoff run, which had Parke suspended and saw Metro start with Diego Jimenez and Andrew Boyens and end with Jimenez and Mendes. And yet, they made the final. It was a simpler time.) Anyway, Mendes and Parke were both good, and Parke was MetroFanatic Hero of the Year in 2006 for his stellar play.
6) Steve Jolley and Eddie Pope, 2003
Speaking of Heroes of the Year, Pope was one in 2003, turning out a fantastic performance. He got to every ball, captained the team, and led it to its first ever final. Jolley scored five goals, still a single-season record for a defender in all competitions, but had a downturn at the end of the year, leading to a trade. (He would return in 2006.)
5) Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes, 2010
Coming off a terrible 2009, little was expected of Metro... and yet, under Hans Backe they won the East, allowing LESS THAN A GOAL PER GAME. Considering the goalkeeper was Bouna Coundoul, you can imagine how important a role the defense played. It was led by unheralded second round pick Ream, who partnered Mike Petke at first, and then Mendes, both on their last hurrah as Metro players.
4) Markus Holgersson and Jamison Olave, 2013
Vice captain Holgersson started off a wrong foot in 2012, but recovered slowly and steadily. When Olave arrived a year later, the two formed a formidable duo that took Metro to its first Shield. At one point, Olave was even the top scorer with four goals! However, as the season wound down, Petke preferred newly-signed Ibrahim Sekagya to Holgersson, moving the latter to right back. That worked out well for the Shield, but not so well in the playoffs...
3) Steve Jolley and Mike Petke, 2000-02
Of course. Petke and Jolley, Jolley and Petke, for three years the defensive linchpin. The 2000 season started poorly, but turned around quickly when Metro acquired Jolley and Daniel Hernandez. Petke, Jolley, and Hernandez formed a fantastic three-man backline that had to be shored when the latter went down to a midseason injury. Still, the duo continued to the brink on MLS Cup, and for two seasons more.
2) Matt Miazga and Damien Perrinelle, 2015
The starting duo in 2014, Olave (who had a down year) and Sekagya (who was Sekagya) were gone, so Metro was left with 19-year-old Miazga and unknown Perrinelle, who looked to have come to New York for modeling, and once said "I'm not Jesus". But you know what? It worked! The duo was absolutely fantastic, leading Metro to its second Shield. Unfortunately, Perrinelle got injured in the playoffs, had to be replaced with Zubar, and that was that.
1) Aaron Long and Tim Parker, 2018
Both are in consideration for MLS Defender of the Year. Both are getting US national team call-ups. Both are threats on set pieces, scoring goals (and even assisting each other)! Metro has the best defense in the league. The year is not over yet, but the partnership of Long and Parker is one of the main reasons that Metro already has the best regular season in club history.