Metro's winning run ended in Cincinnati, 3:0
October 29, 2023
For years, we've been moaning about MLS's playoff format changes that always seem to hurt Metro. No away goals? -- Metro would win on away goals, but loses in overtime. Now away goals? -- Metro ties the series, but loses on the tiebreaker. Home and home? -- top-seeded Metro's home field advantage is completely negated. One-game? -- Metro is now not good enough to get home field, so they lose on the road. Best of three?
Yeah, about that best of three. It's good that there is no aggregate any more, right? It didn't matter that Metro lost this game 3:0. It could have been 10:0, or it could have been on PKs after a tie. The goal difference doesn't matter, as Metro knows they need to win the next two to advance. How is this for us being optimistic?
Strangely, 3:0 doesn't speak about the disparity of the team. Metro played Cincinnati very evenly, it's just one team finished its chances... and that team wasn't Metro.
It's quite likely that Troy Lesesne would have stuck with the same lineup that kept winning games, but he was forced to make a choice by replacing injured Daniel Edelman with Dru Yearwood. The change was noticeable, as Edelman's calming presence was exchanged for Yearwood's careless passing.
Luquinhas had a good early chance for Metro, missing wide from around the penalty spot. Metro paid for it in the 23rd minute, when Alvaro Barreal raced down the left side and beat Carlos Coronel from an acute angle. The newly-Paraguayan goalkeeper seemed slow to react.
The dagger came in the 35th minute, with the entire Metro team up the field on a free kick. Cincinnati cleared the ball as far as the midfield, where it sailed over Yearwood's head. Andres Reyes headed it back into no-man's land, and Coronel had no choice but to run out of his net to clear it. That he did, but sadly is went straight to Luciano Acosta, who was not picked up by Yearwood. The Cincinnati talisman (remember, Metro had his MLS rights before selling them to DC for a measly 50,000) scored from just outside the center circle.
Just before the half, Cincinnati somehow escaped even a yellow when Dominique Badji first elbowed, then punched Sean Nealis. Instead, it was Nealis who was taken off after suffering a knock, as Lesesne also brought on Cameron Harper and Peter Stroud for Omir Fernandez and (thankfully) Yearwood. It didn't help. Metro generated its fair share of chances, but the scoring luck that saw them score five on five shots on goal in midweek dried up. Barreal scored a minute from time to make it academic.
And yet, despite the bad loss, the series is far from over. Last time Metro lost a best-of-three series 3:0 at home was back in 2000, when the Paul Grafer-backed team was trashed by Chicago. A week later, Mike Ammann returned from injury as Metro won 2:0 to take it to the all-decisive third game... How did that end? Well, we're trying to be optimistic!
Lineup: Coronel, Tolkin, Nealis, Reyes, Duncan, Yearwood, Amaya, Fernandez, Luquinhas, Manoel, Barlow. Subs: Nealis, Harper, Stroud, Carmona, Ngoma.