There's only one person more anxious about Ryan Suarez's first match against Chivas USA than Ryan Suarez. And that's Suarez's mother-in-law.
"She flew down three days ago just for this game," Suarez said. "She wants to see this game. She despises the Chivas, and I don't blame her."
Suarez doesn't share his mother-in-law's venom, but the fiery MetroStars defender, whose well-publicized sideline spat with Chivas coach Hans Westerhof led to his dismissal from the expansion side, did make sure he was healthy in time for Sunday's game against Chivas at Giants Stadium.
Suarez has played just 66 minutes for the MetroStars since being claimed off waivers June 29. After his deflection led to an own goal in a 2-1 loss at San Jose, Suarez suffered a medial collateral sprain in his right knee and he has missed the last four games.
But he came back ahead of schedule just to face his former team.
"I am ready for this game, that was my plan," Suarez said after Saturday's training session, his third back with the club. "I was supposed to be a month out and I'm coming back a week early. It's always special to play against your ex-team, especially the way it went down with them. I left on a real sour note."
Suarez, though, has no ill will towards his former teammates. In fact, he has dinner plans with a few of them Saturday night. But he has no respect for Westerhof and has an as-yet-penned message he will scrawl on his undershirt directed at his former team.
"I'm going to write a little something that I've been planning in my mind since that day it happened in Kansas City," Suarez said. "I won't tell what it is to anybody but you'll see it if something special happens."
Suarez's return is welcome news to a MetroStars defense that has been decimated by injury. Central defenders Carlos Mendes (hamstring strain) and Jeff Agoos (left wrist contusion) are out, as is Chris Leitch, who is serving a one-game suspension for caution point accumulation.
That leaves not quite 100 percent Tim Ward (left hamstring strain) and Tim Regan (right foot metacarpal fracture) to join Jeff Parke in the back.
"I think Ryan has experience, he's a good competitor," Metros coach Bob Bradley said. "The question is can his experience and competitiveness help us as we go down the stretch? That's the reason why we picked him up."
The Chivas game is the second in what Bradley deemed a must-win three game stretch at Giants Stadium, where the MetroStars are unbeaten in seven in a row. The Metros rallied to beat Columbus 2-1 last Sunday and host Kansas City Sept. 3 in the other game.
Chivas come into Giants Stadium with a league-worst 12 points out of 23 games but they bring a newfound optimism after signing four Mexican players during the week, including striker Juan Francisco Palencia and offensive midfielder Juan Pablo Garcia.
The two, along with midfielder Hector "Pirata" Castro and goalkeeper Sergio "Matute" Garcia, were formally introduced Friday at a Times Square press conference.
"It's like any other game. Early on it will be a battle to see which team can get the edge, can impose itself on the other team," Bradley said. "They'll enter the game with more optimism, excited about some new talent. But then it's our job, especially at home, to get on top of them in a way that takes that factor out of the picture."
Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.