COLUMBUS, Ohio - Perhaps the MetroStars remembered their last appearance at Columbus Crew Stadium too vividly and expected an easy win. After all, they dominated the Crew in a 3-0 victory with a sterling performance less than two months ago.
Or maybe they did not remember it well enough. Youri Djorkaeff, Amado Guevara, and John Wolyniec combined for a goal and three assists. While Wolyniec is now a member of the Crew, the two international stars were unable to play due to injuries.
While MetroStars coach Bob Bradley knew that the loss of the two key playmakers would limit his team's offensive capabilities, he still expected a better all-around performance.
"It obviously hurts you on the field, but nonetheless I thought we were a step slow all night," said Bradley. "We just didn't have a good enough team effort. We weren't sharp enough."
Bradley was the most disappointed that his team squandered a valuable road point so late in the match.
"When you are in a game like that, there is some value to taking the shutout and getting the point," said the MetroStars coach. "We made a mistake at the end and saw the shutout go down the drain."
The loss drops the MetroStars into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, seven points above the Crew. After beginning the road portion of their season with three wins in four matches, the MetroStars are winless their last four matches away from the Meadowlands.
The late goal by Crew substitute Jamal Sutton ruined the return of 'keeper Tony Meola to MLS play.
"I thought Tony played very well. He read the game well and was in very good positions all night," said Bradley. "It makes it even more frustrating that we let something develop right at the end."
Meola last played in a competitive match last August, after suffering an Achilles tendon injury late last season that saw him lose his place as the Kansas City Wizards starting goalkeeper - which then paved the way for his release over the winter. He underwent surgery on it over the winter and is still working his way into top match fitness.
"To be honest, I was a little bit uncomfortable and nervous before the game. It is difficult when you are not 100 percent," said the veteran of three World Cups. "You get so used to doing things one way your whole life and then you have to change little things."
The MLS original was also disappointed with his squad's result in his first match with the MetroStars since 1998.
"We have to be a little more ruthless. We didn't have much of an attack or possession of the ball," said Meola. "If we got one, it was going to a counterattack and steal one. We just got too spread out in the end a couple times."
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.