Freddy Rincon, the first persistent rumor
April 5, 2020
Metro history is peppered with player rumors. Some of them come true, but most dissolve into nothingness. (Some then come back, circulating for years... remember George Weah, who promised for years to end his career with the MetroStars?) Today, we will discuss the rumor the most persistent rumor of the inaugural Metro season. No, not Weah or Roberto Baggio. Freddy Rincon.
In 1996, each MLS team was awarded four allocated players and four international slots. Metro's allocations were Tab Ramos, Tony Meola, Roberto Donadoni, and the best college player at the time, Damian Silvera. (That one didn't exactly work out for anyone.) Their foreign slots were filled by Donadoni, Nicola Caricola, and Giovanni Savarese. But as MLS was getting into great, the league decided to give each team a fifth allocated player. For example, the Galaxy signed Cobi Jones. Metro... Metro wanted a Colombian.
The names of Faustino Asprilla and Adolfo Valencia (talk about re-circulating!) popped up, but the one name which was most prominent was that of Freddy Rincon. The attacking midfielder, then 29, had already featured for Colombia and two World Cups and three Copa Americas. On the books at Brazil's Palmeiras, he spent 1994-95 on loan at Napoli, before a transfer to Real Madrid. That season did not exactly go well; the Spanish giants somehow finished only 6th in La Liga, and Rincon failed to score a goal.
The MetroStars made their desires known. On April 7th, six days before the opener, the following quote appeared in the New York Times: "They also plan to sign a Colombian striker, preferably Freddy Rincon, who now plays for Real Madrid." Four days later, the Times doubled down: "The MetroStars are close to signing Freddy Rincon." Coach Eddie Firmani was quoted, "He's a tremendous scorer and he will add so much to our team." A week later, Rincon was called GM Charlie Stillitano's "first choice."
On April 23rd, the MetroStars got their Colombian attacker. Signed to a three-year deal was Ruben Dario Hernandez, called by Stillitano at the time "the final piece of the puzzle."
It didn't end there, of course. Rubencho was terrible with Metro, failing to score in ten games, and pouting off the field. On June 20th, Firmani's replacement Carlos Queiroz said to the Times, "I'm very disappointed in Ruben Dario Hernandez. As a foreign player, he must do better. He doesn't fight and he doesn't work hard." Stillitano added, "We will examine things tonight again about Hernandez." That examination led to the immediate termination of his contract.
So, with an allocation and an open international spot, Stillitano went back to the Colombian well. Again, Rincon's name was prominent, but the result was 5'3" Antony "El Pitufo" De Avila, and that was that.
As for Rincon, his first season with Real proved to be his last. He went back to Palmeiras on loan and finished out his career with numerous Brazilian teams, but not before playing in another World Cup. In 2007, he was arrested for money laundering.
Still, we can't help but look back at Metro's beginnings and wonder what would have been if Rincon signed. For that matter, Baggio. Or Weah...