Metro fights back, but ends another season
November 21, 2020

Columbus New York
11.21.20 · Playoff

We've seen this happen 25 times. Year after year, the season ends, and the season never ends on a winning note. (Except in the rare cases when Metro didn't make the playoffs but somehow won the last regular season game. Or two years ago, when they... never mind. Splitting hairs here! Season is over, and Metro didn't win MLS Cup. That's the point!) And yet, somehow, this one hurts a lot less than the 24 others. Perhaps it was because this team was clearly out of its depth, as a result of the disastrous reign of Denis "there is no offseason" Hamlett and Red Bull's negligence. Perhaps because the team fought back and made it close in the final minutes. Perhaps because the new presence of Kevin Thelwell and Gerhard Struber gives us hope?

Speaking of Struber, in his first official game in charge, it was back to a 4-5-1. Caden Clark and Daniel Royer got the nods as Jared Stroud and Brian White went to the bench. (Yes, this means that after a season of failing to score, Tom Barlow was your lone starting striker in the playoffs. Are we allowed to question Struber at the kickoff of his first game?)

After Ryan Meara made two big saves early, Metro caught a break in the 23rd. A Dru Yearwood cross was awfully cleared by Harrison Afful, falling straight to an unmarked Clark in the middle of the box. The 17-year-old easily put it in the net, and Metro had the unexpected lead.

That lead only lasted three minutes, and a bad foul by Yearwood in the box led to a Columbus PK. Meara guessed right, but just missed the out-of-reach ball. The first half ended level.

Alas, the game didn't stay that way for long. Mere seconds into the second half, a Crew shot rebounded off the post, Metro failed to clear, and a completely unmarked Darlington Nagbe made it 2:1. And in the 68th, Columbus looked to have made it academic, when a perfectly-placed Gyasi Zardes header eluded Meara at the far upper corner of the net.

It took a while for Metro to find its footing, but attacks finally started to come. Then, in the 90th, a long Marc Rzatkowski shot deflected, and the German sent it to Stroud, who drilled it into the box. There, White redirected it past the keeper, and Metro had life.

But (oh, there is always a but...) it wasn't enough. Although it could have been, in injury time, when Barlow was all alone in front of a net, with Columbus goalkeeper out of position. The Metro attacker gave it some thought, Crew defenders got back, and his shot didn't make it on goal. It was the season in a nutshell.

So, the offseason is upon us, and promises that Red Bull negligence will be abandoned. Are we right to have hope? Will the billionaire's pockets open? How many of the players we saw today have played their last game for Metro? What will Thelwell and Struber do with their first offseason? And will the 26th season end in a different way than the first 25?

We'll see...

Lineup: Meara, Pendant, Long, Parker, Duncan, Yearwood, Davis, Valot, Clark, Royer, Barlow. Subs: Casseres, White, Romero Gamarra, Rzatkowski, Stroud.

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