Battling terrible weather conditions -- including winds of up to 48 miles per hour and torrential rain -- the MetroStars and Real Salt Lake fought to a scoreless draw on Saturday night at The Meadowlands to open the MLS season.
Just before kickoff at Giants Stadium, as a local singer braved the gusting winds and heavy rain to sing the National Anthem, one of the ballkids momentarily lost control of his ball, and watched helplessly as it rolled quickly across the wet turf toward the goal. It was a fitting omen that would foretell just how big an impact the weather would have on the match.
The MetroStars were the more aggressive of the two teams in the opening minutes, and enjoyed a slight advantage in possession as a result. While conditions made it almost impossible to pass the ball with any accuracy through the air, the home team did well to build the attack on the ground from the flanks in the early going.
The first chance of the game fell to the MetroStars in the fourth minute when a loose ball bounced to Eddie Gaven on the outside edge of the near penalty area. His first-time shot, sent in under pressure from the defense, was blocked before it could trouble RSL goalkeeper D.J. Countess.
Goalkeeper Zach Wells set up the first truly dangerous scoring opportunity of the night on a play made possible by the blustery conditions. Awarded a goal kick, Wells enlisted the help of Chris Leitch to hold the ball steady, NFL kicker style, as he blasted a long kick upfield. His wind-aided kick over everyone in midfield and into the path of a charging Sergio Galvan Rey, who broke in alone on the opposing goalkeeper before firing a shot that was easily saved.
Real nearly broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute, again thanks to the strong wind. An Andy Williams cross, seemingly destined to sail out of play over the goal, instead curled back across the six-yard box to Clint Mathis, who had difficulty with the bounce and managed only a weak shot at Wells.
A power outage in the 40th minute caused a brief delay in the game, and forced the reminder of the half to be played in the dim light provided by the stadium's emergency generators.
Amado Guevara, who earlier in the half uncorked a long-range attempt wide, took the final meaningful shot of the first half from more than 25 yards out, bending his right-footed effort into the arms of the goalkeeper after a restart.
Real started the second half quickly, now attacking with the wind at their backs, and immediately put the Metro defense on its heels. Dipsy Selowane chested a long cross-field pass into the path of Jason Kreis, who blasted a strong left-footed shot at Wells.
Eddie Gaven set up a scoring opportunity in the 57th minute with a short pass to Mark Lisi after a restart. Gaven quickly gained possession of the pass and fired a right-footed shot that cut through the strong wind and slipped just over the crossbar.
The MetroStars kept the pressure on through the 60th minute, when they were unlucky to miss the goal. Gaven, the most consistently dangerous attacking player on field, threaded a ball from near the endline across the box to John Wolyniec.
Wolyniec lifted the ball upward to the crossbar, where Countess again played the hero as he parried his header into the air. The wind kept the ball in play but Galvan Rey, positioned at the far post, couldn't connect as he jumped to head the ball home.
Real was unable to turn its advantage in ball possession into any serious scoring opportunities in the last 20 minutes of the game, and as the wind and rain picked up both teams seemed content to share the points.
The MetroStars will return to action again next Saturday night when they host the Kansas City Wizards at Giants Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Real Salt Lake will meet the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center on April 8 before making their home debut at Rice-Eccles Stadium on April 16 against the Colorado Rapids.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: D.J. Countess (Real Salt Lake)
Rich Schneider is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Real Salt Lake (0-0-1) vs. MetroStars (0-0-1)
April 2, 2005 -- Giants Stadium
Scoring Summary: NONE
Real Salt Lake -- D.J. Countess, Eddie Pope, Nelson Akwari, Matt Behncke, Rusty Pierce, Dipsy Selolwane, Andy Williams, Marlon Rojas (Luke Kreamalmeyer 72), Brian Kamler, Clint Mathis, Jason Kreis.
Substitutes Not Used: Chris Brown, Brian Dunseth, Jay Nolly, Leighton O'Brien.
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Clint Mathis 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 13 (Dipsy Selolwane 4); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 3 (Jason Kreis 2); SAVES: 3 (D.J. Countess 3)
MetroStars -- Zach Wells, Chris Leitch, Carlos Mendes, Jeff Parke, Jeff Agoos, Michael Bradley, Eddie Gaven, Amado Guevara, Mark Lisi, Sergio Galvan Rey (Mike Magee 67), John Wolyniec.
Substitutes Not Used: Ramon Bailey, Chris Corcoran, Gilberto Flores, Dan Kennedy, Tim Regan, Seth Stammler, Tim Ward.
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Jeff Agoos 2, Amado Guevara 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 12 (Mark Lisi 5); OFFSIDES: 3 (3 tied with 1); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Amado Guevara 3); SAVES: 4 (Zach Wells 3)
RSL -- Jason Kreis (caution; Tackle from Behind) 30
Referee: Abiodun Okulaja
Referee's Assistants: Greg Barkey; Nathan Clement
4th Official: Jair Marrufo
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.