Bob Bradley had just made Major League Soccer history, yet one could barely tell his side had even won an important match. The league's all-time leading coach set a new standard with his 100th regular season victory, yet he barely wanted to address his milestone.
"The numbers mean nothing to me," Bradley said stoically after the MetroStars' 2-1 win over Chicago on Saturday. "We are in the midst of a season. We're working like crazy to get a little better and get a little stronger mentally, and to know how to really be a team that can win a championship. So much goes into that every day between the coaches and players, but that's all you want the team to understand, and that's what counts and the rest really doesn't matter."
Bradley further refused to discuss any emotions tied to earning his 100th win against the Chicago Fire side he built from scratch to win the MLS Cup/U.S. Open Cup double in its first season on the field in 1998 and coached to two more cup finals through 2002. But he did acknowledge the importance of his MetroStars defeating the Fire, something that had not happened since June 2002.
"Now we're talking about something important," he said. "We have had a lot of hard games with them. I feel like we understand that you have to raise your level of competing in order to have a really good game with Chicago."
It is mostly because of Bradley's influence that it takes such an effort to earn a result against the Fire, and now the league's first hundred-game-winning coach is attempting to instill that same work ethic in the MetroStars.
Saturday night, the MetroStars had to rise up to the challenge of falling a goal down, and they responded with a late first half goal through hard work, followed by a 57th game winner from John Wolyniec when they beat the Fire at their own coveted counterattack game.
"To come through with a win like that coming from behind, it's a good step for us that is important," Bradley said.
Lost points on Saturday for the Crew and United assure the MetroStars of going to the All-Star Game as Eastern Conference leaders, and they have left the once-vaunted Fire seven points back in fourth place.
"It's nice to have a little bit of room, but I think we've just seen in this league over and over again that you just have to keep concentrating on your next game," Bradley said. "Every game is hard, every game is close and the league is so even. The ability for us to win a game like tonight is important because we are going to be in a lot more games like it."
In the locker room, some of the MetroStars took a brief moment to reflect on the 100th coaching victory for Bradley.
"I think it's good, this is certainly one of many for him," captain Eddie Pope said. "One hundred wins isn't saying that much because he's going to win a lot more, but still, it's important sometimes to take a quick second and to say, 'Hey, great 100th win' and then move on."
Said Wolyniec: "(It) adds to the moment. Bob has downplayed it, but he's a great coach and we believe in him. Sometimes a moment like this can bring a team together and rally the troops behind our general."
Dan Lauletta is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.