At their annual media day Monday, the MetroStars addressed the two issues that have dominated discussion about the team in recent years: their proposed Harrison, N.J., stadium and their bare trophy case.
The stadium issue could reach, or at least be very close to reaching, a resolution in just nine days. MetroStars President and General Manager Nick Sakiewicz said the club has a meeting scheduled with New Jersey state officials and representatives of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority on March 30 in the hopes of finalizing an agreement.
The stadium deal has reportedly been held up recently by demands from the state that Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the MetroStars, guarantee half of the portion of the stadium cost that is expected to be paid by state-issued bonds. Sakiewicz said he hopes next week's meeting will sort out that and any other outstanding issues regarding the stadium.
"We're positive ... that the meeting is going to be one of the last -- if not the last -- meetings that we have regarding our stadium project, and that that meeting is going to end up in a very positive way," Sakiewicz said.
He added, however, that MLS Commissioner Don Garber's comments to reporters last week about the Metros' stadium situation were on target. Garber told those reporters that he has talked to Sakiewicz about the possibility of moving the MetroStars to New York, stressing the fact that the club will not be able to remain viable if it continues to play its home matches at Giants Stadium.
While Sakiewicz said the potential for moving the club exists, Harrison is still the No. 1 option.
"We need a new stadium. Period. End of story. Commissioner Garber's comments last week were not a surprise to us," he said. "We're hopeful we can get this thing done in New Jersey and in Harrison. However, we can no longer put all of our eggs in one basket. We need to explore all of the possibilities in this area. So, whether that stadium is in New York or New Jersey or anywhere in the New York metropolitan area, it really doesn't matter. The end result is that we must have our own stadium, and that is going to happen."
On the field, the Metros are gunning for the same prize as the 11 other MLS teams: an MLS Cup title. This offseason, in an effort to overturn the club's luck in capturing hardware, head coach Bob Bradley and the club's management went out and acquired two veterans who are proven champions. Defender Jeff Agoos is the most decorated man in MLS history, with five MLS Cup crowns. Midfielder Youri Djorkaeff is a legend who helped the French national team win the World Cup in 1998.
Bradley is hoping those two players and the continued development of the holdovers from last year's roster will help the club avoid another early playoff exit. Last year, Bradley said, he felt his team was on the same footing as eventual champion D.C. United until the playoffs, when, according to Bradley, a few plays that went against the Metros saw United knock the Metros out of contention for the title.
Bradley said the growth of his club into a legitimate contender has been a long, painstaking process and pointed out that, due to the ability for clubs to add players throughout the year, it is far from over.
"I wished we could have skipped a few steps, but we haven't skipped any. We're touching every single one," he said. "This process isn't going to stop on April 2. This is going to continue. That's just the way this league works."
Bradley also noted the increasing pressure on the club to win. The MetroStars, who play in the league's largest market, have yet to win a single significant trophy.
"I understand that you get judged by whether you win," he said. "Everybody here knows that the team has not won anything, and I'm reminded everywhere I go -- by fans, by friends -- that that is still the goal."
In trying to accomplish that goal as quickly as possible, the Metros announced Monday that they have extended the contracts of three important cogs in the lineup: forward John Wolyniec, defender Chris Leitch and midfielder Amado Guevara. The club has also signed defenders Chris Corcoran, Jason Hernandez and Carlos Mendes, and forwards Ramon Baily and Abdoulaye "Abbe" Ibrahim. Corcoran and Hernandez were signed to developmental contracts, while the rest will be added to the Metros' senior roster.
Also Monday, the club unveiled its home and away uniforms for the 2005 season and introduced the MetroGirls, a group of 11 female ambassadors for the club.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.