Road continues to be gold for Metros
Not many teams possess the courage to come into The Home Depot Center and challenge the Los Angeles Galaxy, on the league's most spacious pitch, wave for wave in attack. Then again, not many have proven to be the road warriors that the MetroStars are.
The Metros played Saturday's match without Eddie Gaven and French World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff, yet still received goals from Abbe Ibrahim in the fifth minute and substitute Sergio Galvan Rey in the 72nd minute to secure a deserved 2-2 draw.
Completing a five-match, 14-day stretch, the MetroStars went 2-1-2. They are unbeaten in six of their last seven fixtures and improved to 3-1-1 with 11 goals scored away.
Only FC Dallas (4-1-3 on the road) have more points away, but have played three more road matches than the Metros. The Eastern Conference club outshot the Galaxy 13-11, matched them in quality chances, had more corner kicks (10-5) and were flagged for offsides as many times, which further demonstrates their will to go forward.
The Metros (4-3-4) played their first match without Gaven, who left midweek for Holland to play for the United States in the FIFA World Youth (U-20) Championships. Mark Lisi got the nod in midfield in Gaven's place.
Djorkaeff did not make the West Coast trip after straining his left calf in Tuesday's home win against Chicago. John Wolyniec replaced the French World Cup winner in the first 11.
"We wanted to come in and push the tempo a little bit and it's something we've tried to do in every game lately," Metros coach Bob Bradley said. "We were able to get pretty good movement. We've found a good way of moving. Those things shouldn't change as much when you're missing players."
Any secret to the success away from Giants Stadium?
"I guess we've been claiming the grass fields," midfielder Mike Magee said.
"We certainly enjoy playing on nice fields,'' Bradley added.
In defense, the Galaxy (6-2-2) were missing defenders Chris Albright (injured), and Tyrone Marshall and Michael Umana (Jamaican and Costa Rican national team duty, respectively). While the absences might have affected the Metros' goal ouput, they would not have affected their attacking philosophy and mindset.
Continually dangerous on set pieces, the first chance, and goal, of the match went to the visiting side five minutes in. Amado Guevara's curling, left-side corner kick ran onto Ibrahim's far-post scoring header after Wolyniec stood in the way of Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman's attempted punch at the ball.
It was Ibrahim's second goal, and the Metros' first goal off a corner, and fastest goal, this season. The second half saw the MetroStars bring on Galvan Rey for Ibrahim, who picked up a knock that aggravated a left knee contusion, and used the counterattack slightly more, but still made smart, calculated surges forward.
Down 2-1, the MetroStars found an equalizer as Magee received a ball from the right flank, passed ahead to Lisi 30 yards straightaway from goal, and Lisi sent a ball between two defenders that was rewarded with a fine, first-time, right-foot finish from Galvan Rey, running into the area from the left, that curled past Hartman and just inside the right post.
"(Sergio's) movement is important,'' Bradley said. "He has a knack of finding chances and he took his goal real well."
Player movement on offense can be seen as a direct product of confidence and comfort playing with one another.
"We've scored a lot of goals on the road and we definitely have the confidence,'' Wolyniec said. "With the amount of chances we created, we should've won the game."
Added Magee: "It's definitely tough for us in losing (Gaven and Djorkaeff). I think we all stepped up. We're just trying to get numbers forward. We're getting guys checking back in, guys are making long runs and we're looking underneath. I think if you look at our tape, we weren't doing those things early in the season. It was disappointing to go down 2-1 but we still felt we could win."
The Galaxy took a 2-1 lead on a rather soft goal created out of almost nothing in the 34th minute when left back Todd Dunivant boomed a switching ball out of the Galaxy half. Metros left back Tim Regan could not catch up to cut it out.
The ball went behind Regan and through to the streaking winger Cobi Jones, who first-touched the bouncing ball near the top, right edge of the area over the onrushing goalkeeper Zach Wells, making a Southern California homecoming, into an open net.
"That comes at a bad time,'' Bradley said. "I thought we had a good first half and it was frustrating to be down at halftime. The response in the second half was exactly what you want."
Damian Secore is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.