On having a backup plan
February 19, 2021
Back in 2004, Metro was coming off a much-improved season, reaching the first final in team history. Coach Bob Bradley looked to have the club moving in the right direction. One problem, however; while defense and midfielder were anchored by stalwarts Eddie Pope and Amado Guevara, the forward line was lacking. Talismanic Clint Mathis left for Germany, and the two leading returning scorers were journeyman John Wolyniec and rookie Mike Magee. So Bradley went shopping.
With the inflation of MLS salaries and transfer fees, it's hard to comprehend how large the transfer of Sergio Galvan Rey was. The numbers are lost to the past, but the fee was close to half a million dollars. The 30-year-old seemed worth it: the "King of Goals" had torn it up in Colombia for close to a decade, scoring an impressive 171 goals in eight years. "He has a true eye for the goal and his experience and leadership will be invaluable to our young team," Bradley said at the time. "We are very excited that he will bring, not only a lot of exciting moments on the field, but real value to us in the locker room," GM Nick Sakiewicz added.
But Bradley was not done. Not wanting to put all his eggs in the SGR basket, he signed not one, but two backup plans: Fabian Taylor from Jamaica and Cornell Glen from Trinidad and Tobago. The former, 23, was a full international who scored at will in the Jamaican league. The latter, 22, was an international as well, and had just scored a hat trick against Chicago in CONCACAF play.
Which brings us to today. Just like in 2004, it should be obvious that the forward line is lacking. Brian White is more than adequate as an MLS striker, but he is alone on the roster who can make that claim. Tom Barlow might check all the analytics boxes, but he just doesn't put the ball in the net... which, in theory, should be a target striker's main job. Three goals in 22 games will just not cut it. So what does the current brain trust do?
They loan Fabio, a player no one has ever heard of prior to his arrival. That alone is not a problem; in fact, the short-term loan might be a perfect play for such an unknown quantity. Fabio might prove to be a worthy arrival... but he might not. And the fact that Red Bull, with all the resources available today, does not want to upgrade the frontline with a proven goalscorer, seems worrisome. What happens if Fabio doesn't pan out? Is there a backup plan? (We're not asking for two?)
As for 2004, the backup plans were needed. SGR proved to be a colossal disappointment who did not provide many "exciting moments on the field" (we're not sure if he had "real value in the locker room", Nick), scoring just once from the run of play. Taylor and Glen showed flashes, scoring five and six respectively, but both were jettisoned after the season. (You can make the case that the two of them combined into a solid striker.) Amazingly, it was Wolyniec who proved to be the best of them all, scoring ten and starting in the playoffs. But at least Bradley had options.
We'd never thought that we would long for the ways the MetroStars acquired players, yet here we are.