we just have to work more with our midfielders."
Last year, the MetroStars opened their season with a 3-1 away victory against the Columbus Crew (Hejduk 30 - Magee 40, Wolyniec 52, Guevara 88). They also opened the 2003 campaign against the Crew, but that was a loss at home on a last-minute Jeff Cunningham goal.
That loss snapped a modest two-match winning streak on opening day for Metro, winning 2-1 against New England Revolution in 2001, then 3-1 against the Rev the following season, both contests in New Jersey. Those triumphs came after the MetroStars lost four of their first five season-opening matches.
REAL SALT LAKE
Real concluded their inaugural preseason campaign with a 4-1 loss to the Kansas City Wizards in Tulsa on March 25. Rusty Pierce gave RSL a lead early in the second half before the Wizards exploded for four goals in 19 minutes to cruise to victory.
Here's John Ellinger's team (4-4-2) Countess - Behncke, Pope (Cila 83), Akwari, Pierce - Kreamalmeyer, Kamler (O'Brien 69), Williams, Brown - Kreis, Mathis (Dunseth 46)
Real completed the signing of a number of players in the week leading up to the season opener. The biggest acquisition was midfielder Leighton O'Brien, who returned to the USA after two seasons in Sweden with Bodens BK - where he played alongside FC Dallas defender Brian Dunseth last year. O'Brien made four appearances with the San Jose Earthquakes in 1999, moving to the Seattle Sounders where he played three seasons and won A-League MVP honors in 2002 after scoring 13 goals and 11 assists.
"He's an experienced professional and I have worked with him in the past with the U.S. national 'B' team," said Ellinger. "Defensively and offensively he is always in the right position. Getting Leighton O'Brien is something that we weren't quite sure was going to happen. He'll definitely play a big role on the team this year either starting or coming off the bench."
The club also signed seven players - all selections in this year's drafts - to contracts: goalkeepers Jay Nolly and Noah Palmer, defender Michael Lookingland, midfielders Kevin Novak, Kenny Cutler and Nikolas Besagno and forward Jamie Watson.
Eddie Pope is nearly completely recovered from his pelvic injury that kept him out the U.S. national team's World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Guatemala. He is expected to be in the team for the match at The Meadowlands.
For the team's inaugural game, Ellinger is expected to run out a four-man midfield with Brian Kamler in a holding role, Marlon Rojas and Dipsy Selolwane on the left and right side respectively, and Andy Williams in a more attacking role.
"I know that he's been with all these different teams, but frankly I can't understand why. I don't know what else to say - the guy is a phenomenal player," Ellinger told the Deseret Morning News. "He's going to be one of the keys to our success. I've put a lot of faith in him to run the show. He's got a lot of freedom."
With the wealth of players on the Real roster with MLS experience, the club does not look at itself as an expansion club heading into the season opener. "We have players who aren't 'expansion' players," defender Brian Dunseth told The Salt Lake Tribune. "You have national team players. ... There's tons of talent on this team. It's just a matter of getting everyone on the same page."
"We'll take the label of 'expansion team,' " Eliinger told The Tribune. "That kind of takes the pressure off. I think most of the teams in the league know, they look at the roster, and on paper we look pretty strong. We've got experience at almost all the positions."
Real released Bosnian defender Senad Halilovic, who was with the club nearly the entirety of preseason.
The Utah-based club begins their history with a team filled with considerable MLS veterans and a number of highly-touted young players. They gladly accept the role of expansion team, but John Ellinger has built a squad that could well contend from the outset, or at the least claim points from teams who underestimate them in the early days of the season.