E. RUTHERFORD, N.J.
6 pm ET (UPN-Ohio)
One of two massive matches in the Eastern Conference will take place on Sunday evening at The Meadowlands, where the MetroStars entertain the Columbus Crew holding just a two-point lead - and with the visitors still holding a match in hand. The away team has held most of the advantage in this series, not a good sign for the Metros on recent form - they haven't scored in two games (losing both) while the Crew bring a club record-equaling nine-game unbeaten run with them on their travels.
REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. SAR (bench): Robert Fereday; JAR (opposite): Ken Kaplan; 4th: Roni Canales
MLS Career: 22 games; FC/gm: 31.8; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 4; pens: 9
Games involving MetroStars: P5 W2 L2 T1; FC/gm: 35.4; Y/gm: 4.0; R: 0; pens: 3
Games involving Crew: P4 W0 L3 T1; FC/gm: 30.0; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 0; pens: 3
INJURY REPORT: METROSTARS - OUT: MD Michael Bradley (R foot stress fracture); MD Gilberto Flores (L ankle ruptured tendon); MD Mark Lisi (R ankle sprain); DOUBTFUL: DF Craig Ziadie (L knee LCL sprain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Mike Magee (L knee MCL sprain); DF Eddie Pope (R hamstring strain) ... COLUMBUS CREW - OUT: DF Stephen Herdsman (L groin strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
YELLOW PERIL: MET: Tenwya Bonseu (20 CP); Ricardo Clark (18 CP) ... CLB: Frankie Hejduk (20 CP)
The Eastern Conference rivals meet for the second of four scheduled encounters this year, but the first time since the season opener. This starts a run of three meetings over the final third of the season - next Sept. 18 in Columbus and then Oct. 9 at MetroStars.
The MetroStars won that season opener 3-1 at Crew Stadium on April 3, reversing a loss to the Crew in the season opener a year ago.
Some real opportunism from Frankie Hejduk gave the home side the lead after a half-hour, lunging to head home from close range after MetroStars 'keeper Jonny Walker had parried an initial shot.
But a looping header from Mike Magee pulled the visitors level before the break (40), then strike partner John Wolyniec turned home a low cross from Mark Lisi for the eventual game-winner (52). Amado Guevara gave Metro their final margin of victory two minutes from time when he hammered home a rebound from close range.
Here's the team Andrulis put out (4-1-3-2): Jon Busch - Steven Herdsman, Nelson Akwari (Duncan Oughton 64), Robin Fraser, Eric Denton (Jamal Sutton 85) - Simon Elliott - Ross Paule, Kyle Martino, Frankie Hejduk - David Testo (Michael Ritch 74), Jeff Cunningham.
Here's the team Bob Bradley sent out (4-4-2): Jonny Walker - Craig Ziadie, Tenywa Bonseu, Jeff Parke, Chris Leitch - Joselito Vaca, Amado Guevara, Mark Lisi (Ricardo Clark 66), Eddie Gaven - Mike Magee (Fabian Taylor 64), John Wolyniec.
A year ago, MetroStars won the season series with two victories in the four meetings, Columbus winning one and one ending in a draw. Tight defensive battles characterized the league series, with no team scoring more than one goal in any match.
Jeff Cunningham scored the lone goal in the Crew win on April 12, then Mike Magee netted the only goal in the Metro win two weeks later, the road team winning on both occasions. The clubs played to a 1-1 draw on May 31 in Columbus (Cunningham 34 - Mathis 64 pen), then MetroStars won Sept. 20 at Giants Stadium by the only goal , a golden goal from John Wolyniec.
But the two teams exploded for seven goals in their third round U.S. Open Cup matchup, MetroStars advancing with a 4-3 victory after twice coming back from two goals down.
Until the final two meetings a year ago, the visiting team had won the previous seven contests between the clubs, and 11 of the previous 12, dating back to the 1999 campaign. The road team has won 12 of the last 15 meetings in the series.
John Wolyniec leads current MetroStars with 4 goals v Columbus - 3 while with the Metros. Mike Magee has 2 goals v the Crew, while Amado Guevara is the only other active Metro with a goal v Columbus (1 goal, 1 assist).
Jeff Cunningham leads current Crew players with 6 goals, 4 assists v Metro (second on the club all-time list). Ross Paule has 4 goals, 3 assists against his former club - just 1 assist while in Columbus. Brian Maisonneuve has 3 goals, 2 assists, while Frankie Hejduk has 2 goals, 3 assists.
Amazingly, the clubs had never played to a draw until last year. They had no match decided by a shootout, and did not see a match extended into extra time until the 2002 series.
Coaches record: Bob Bradley v CLB: P21 W14 L5 T2 ... Greg Andrulis vs. MET: P11 W5 L5 D1
ALL-TIME (29 meetings): MetroStars 13 wins, 40 goals ... Crew 15 wins, 39 goals ... 1 draw
AT GIANTS STADIUM (14 meetings): MetroStars 6 wins, 15 goals ... Crew 8 wins, 16 goals ... 0 draws
Jordan Cila once again rose up to torment his hometown club, slipping in to force home the rebound of a powerful long-range drive from Mark Chung that Metro 'keeper Jonny Walker failed to hold (54).
Earlier in the season, the Long Island native had scored twice in the Rapids come-from-behind 3-2 win against the MetroStars at Giants Stadium.
It was a fifth consecutive home shutout for the Rapids, who last allowed a goal in Denver on June 19, a span of 491 minutes.
"There were stretches when we did alright, but there were stretches when we couldn't even make one pass in a row," said Eddie Gaven. "It seemed like we really couldn't click today. We definitely have to fix the things we've done wrong and find that flow we had when we won those five or six games in a row."
MetroStars head coach Bob Bradley made one change from the team that lost 1-0 to the Burn the previous Sunday. Mike Magee suffered a knee injury during the week in training, Amado Guevara taking his place as he returned from international duty.
Here's Bradley's team (4-1-3-2): Jonny Walker - Tenywa Bonseu, Kenny Arena (Sergio Galvan Rey 77), Jeff Parke, Chris Leitch - Ricardo Clark - Joselito Vaca, Amado Guevara, Eddie Gaven - Cornell Glen (Fabian Taylor 69), John Wolyniec.
"I think we let ourselves down with poor play in the deciding part of the field," said Bradley. "I don't think we were good enough with the ball. Even when we kept it, I don't think we did well."
Eddie Pope was supposed to start in central defense as he too returned from international duty, but a hamstring strain in pre-match warmups put him out of the team for the night.
The MetroStars fell for a second consecutive week on a 1-0 shutout, this time away to the Colorado Rapids after losing at home to the Dallas Burn. The MetroStars still remained atop the Eastern Conference though, with 32 points from 22 matches, two ahead of the Columbus Crew who failed to capitalize on the loss.
The home-standing Crew failed to capitalize on the MetroStars loss despite matching the club record unbeaten mark set in 2001, conceding a late penalty before sharing the spoils in a 2-2 draw with D.C. United as all four goals came from free kicks.
Alecko Eskandarian gave the visitors the lead in the 35th minute, hammering a free kick through the wall from some 22 yards and leaving Crew 'keeper Jon Busch as it whistled inside his left-hand post.
But the Crew drew level before the break, Duncan Oughton slipping behind the United defense and rising up to nod home Simon Elliott's free kick floated into the area (43). The Crew then took the lead after the interval through a powerfully-taken free kick of their own, Ross Paule ripping a drive from 25 yards that sailed over the wall and past United 'keeper Troy Perkins (54).
Yet United pegged back the Crew - some consolation perhaps for the late equalizer they allowed last weekend to the Revolution - when Dema Kovalenko's chip into the area was adjudged to have been handled by Frankie Hejduk. Jaime Moreno stepped to the spot and sent a blistering shot underneath the crossbar for the leveler.
Crew head coach Greg Andrulis didn't make any changes to the team that defeated the Kansas City Wizards 2-1 at home at midweek. Here's Andrulis's team (3-5-2): Jon Busch - Nelson Akwari (Danny Szetela 88), Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall - Frankie Hejduk, Simon Elliott, Duncan Oughton, Ross Paule, Chris Wingert - Edson Buddle (Jeff Cunningham 81), Kyle Martino.
"We're disappointed with how we played," Paule said. "We weren't holding the ball enough. It wasn't a lack of effort. We looked good at times. We needed to adjust better to the way they were playing."
The Crew have three wins and six draws in equaling their club record unbeaten streak previously set in 2001 when they went nine games without a loss from July 4 to Aug. 19 (seven wins, two draws).
During the week, the Crew confirmed the acquisition of midfielder Tony Sanneh, in his return to MLS after playing five seasons in Germany with Hertha Berlin (1999-2001) and 1. FC Nürnburg (2001-2004). Sanneh was acquired in 1996 by D.C. United and won two MLS Cups in three seasons with United, before moving to the Bundesliga. He has 40 caps and three goals with the U.S. national team.
Sanneh is still recovering from a back injury that cost him nearly the entire season last year. "By playoff time, I need to be fully fit and fully integrated. I've become a world caliber player at right back and center back, but at the same time I can do this more as a role player where I can come in and just try to fit into the system. I just want to try to blend in."
Andrulis hinted that Jeff Cunningham could return to the starting lineup this weekend. He has not started in five games, ostensibly to rest sore hamstrings, though the U.S. international striker has claimed he's healthy. Still, Andrulis said he now is fit and ready. "I do want to tinker with the lineup. I do want to get better. I know Jeff makes us better," Andrulis said. "He sure looks like (he's ready). When he's healthy, he's a dangerous player."
That would mean a change in roles for Kyle Martino, who won player of the week honors last week in a forward role. Andrulis said he would likely move back in behind the front two. "Hopefully, it will keep Kyle free to keep doing what he's doing, but obviously he'll have a little less space and freedom to do it in," Andrulis said. "We hope Kyle keeps attacking."
Erick Scott came on at halftime of Costa Rica's quarterfinal loss to Argentina which ended their Olympic dreams last week.
The Columbus Crew extended their unbeaten run to a club record-tying nine matches, but will likely look at their 2-2 draw at home with D.C. United as two points lost. The Crew also failed to capitalize on a MetroStars loss and take over the top spot in the Eastern Conference, still two points the Metros with 30 points from 21 matches, though they still have one match in hand.