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Eastern Conference Championship

No excuses from frustrated MetroStars

Tony Meola isn't ready to talk about the MLS playoffs.

All that's on the mind of the MetroStars veteran goalkeeper is winning a game. And after a lackluster effort against rival D.C. United in a 3-0 loss on Wednesday, the thought of playing in the postseason couldn't be further away from his thinking.

"Playoffs?," Meola said. "I want to win a game first before we worry about the playoffs right now." Answering questions about whether fatigue was a factor in the second half, he responded: "Tired? If you're tired I don't want to hear about it. Tired is when you don't run down balls, tired [is when] you don't track a guy on that first goal.

"Tired isn't an excuse - everybody's tired. You think they (D.C. United) weren't tired before we came in here?" Meola continued.

Most of the MetroStars said that losing Amado Guevara in the first half was a big blow to the team's hopes of winning.

"Unfortunately, losing our captain, obviously a lot of our stuff goes through him," defender Chris Leitch said. "I think we responded decently well, you know, there wasn't a huge dropoff which is good. But you lose a caliber player like Amado and you're going to feel it a little bit."

Meola echoed Leitch's sentiments, stressing his squad simply isn't doing enough of late to pull out a win. Losing the captain and playmaker didn't help.

"We have to play with 11 guys, that's the bottom line. We can't put ourselves in a hole like that. We did what we could do, by the time we had 10 on 10, we did everything we could do," Meola said.

Heads were down and optimism was hard to find in the MetroStars' locker room after the setback. Forward Mike Magee stressed the importance of picking up a win this weekend against last-place Columbus.

"We're confident in ourselves against another conference opponent coming up," Magee said. "Against conference teams we have a chance to pick up basically another six points."

A jovial but injured Freddy Adu dressed in street clothes and signed autographs after the win. Leitch refused to cite United's injury problems as a reason for his club's loss.

"I don't know about them missing guys because they have other guys who are equally as dangerous," the starting right back said. "We're down about this game, but the good thing is we have two more games against D.C. and a couple other home and home series against conference teams."

Frustration abound for members of the now-.500 MetroStars. But with an outside shot at the MLS playoffs, players haven't thrown in the towel just yet.

"I think when it was 1-0, we had some really good chances," Magee said. "It's not bouncing our way right now. If we score one goal, it's 1-1 and a completely different game."

The Metros found little solace in going scoreless in an important road game during the season's homestretch. Leitch said the focus has to be on winning from here on out -- or his team is in trouble.

"By no means are we out of it but we've got to turn these games around," Leitch said. "This is the playoff mentality; right now, if the season finished now we'd be out of the playoffs. So obviously we're going into every game with that mentality of winning three points."

Meola sounded extremely irritated afterward, after displaying several signs of frustration throughout the contest.

"It's just not enough, we've got to do something. We better come out flying [Sunday against Columbus], or else we can kiss this season goodbye, that's for sure."

So for now, the MetroStars in the playoffs is far on the back burner.

Khalil Garriott is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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