The onus for Tony Meola is on winning games, on finding a way to help lead the MetroStars to the playoffs in the final two months of the regular season.
So does he want to beat Kansas City Saturday at Giants Stadium? Sure. But not because it's his former club, but rather because they're the next Eastern Conference opponent on their schedule.
"We're in such a predicament that I haven't really thought about that stuff," Meola said Friday. "We need to win, that's the bottom line. It just happens to be that this week it's Kansas City. Maybe the one there might be a little bit different but right now all I'm worried about is winning."
Meola faces his old mates for the first time since the 36-year-old World Cup veteran was unceremoniously released by the Wizards following last season.
For Meola, it's the friends he made during his six years in Kansas City, not the coaches or the front office, that he is looking forward to seeing the next two weekends.
"I'm excited to see all those guys. I'll be out to dinner with those guys tonight," he said. "They're my friends, they're not my ex-teammates. Guys like (Chris) Klein and Diego (Gutierrez). One of the biggest things I miss about being out in Kansas City is missing that bible study group we had. But I'll always look at those guys far beyond ex-teammates."
The MetroStars will take the field for the first time since Aug. 21, when they rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie Chivas USA 3-3. Since then the Metros have watched Eastern Conference foes like D.C. United, Chicago and Kansas City all drop points and they feel a bit fortunate to only be six points out of the fourth and final playoff spot following the week off.
"Last weekend was a weekend when a few results kept things very tight," MetroStars coach Bob Bradley said. "I still believe that it says a lot about the conference that everybody's grouped so closely and that really winning a game at the right time, making a couple of plays at the right time, those are the things that really will determine the standings and the playoff pairings."
Saturday's game against Kansas City is the first of three critical home-and-home series' for the Metros in their final eight games. And its at the friendly confines of Giants Stadium, where the MetroStars are unbeaten in nine straight games dating back to May 7.
"We've got to get points out of this," Meola said. "Just like the playoffs, if you play at home first, you've got to win. That's the way we have to look at it. We had a great week of training, I thought. A really hard week, especially in the beginning of the week. It seems like forever since we played a game and I think everyone's ready."
While Danilo da Silva is out for the next three to five weeks after surgery to repair a torn right lateral meniscus and Jeff Parke will serve a one-game suspension for an accumulation of caution points, the bye week allowed other injured healthy to get closer to full form.
Ante Razov is expected to be available following sports hernia surgery, as is Carlos Mendes, who is recovering from a hamstring strain, Mark Lisi, who has a left quadriceps contusion and Jeff Agoos, who has a left calf strain.
"It gave us a chance to focus on getting people healthy and focus on improving," Bradley said. "I'm not sure it would have been our choice but that's how it went."
Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.