He was back on the familiar turf at Giants Stadium, back wearing No. 1 for the MetroStars, back wearing the captain's armband. It wasn't quite his triumphant return to MLS, but 45 minutes of a reserve division game Sunday morning was a good start for Tony Meola.
Meola had very little to do in the first half. He didn't have to make one save, as was the case for Zach Wells on Saturday night in a 2-1 win in the first team match. But Meola, who was claimed off waivers by the Metros on June 30, was forced to play himself out of a troublesome touch in the 3-0 reserve match victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"I made that bad touch but I was able to cut the guy, which was something I didn't think I could do," Meola said. "It was just one of things you just have to do once and then I know I can do it again."
The Kearny, N.J., native, who had surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon in January, also had his first opportunity to work with defenders Carlos Mendes and Ryan Suarez, who each started.
"It was good to get him back into a regular game," Metros coach Bob Bradley said. "Training is one thing but matches are another. Over the last week he's made a lot of progress and hopefully he can continue to build on that."
Meola, 36, starred for the MetroStars from 1996-98 before being traded to Kansas City. He has played in a pair of World Cups and helped lead the Wizards to the 2000 MLS Cup title, where he beat Bradley's Chicago Fire.
"Tony will always organize, he'll always bring that stability to the backline," said Metros assistant coach Mo Johnston. "He can play with either foot. We don't want to rush Tony. He's just coming off surgery and every day he's making progress."
With negotiations seemingly stalled with former Dundee midfielder Neil Barrett, the Metros used the game to tryout a few players, including former FC Dallas midfielder Eric Quill and Chuck Kim, a 21-year-old midfielder who played in Germany's 2. Bundesliga (second division) last year.
Quill, who is coming off a torn right calf, scored the Metros first goal at the half-hour mark. He is also working out with D.C. United, and with his fiancée-to-be living in Washington D.C., he would like to catch on with either club. He played 50 minutes before being replaced by guest player Mark Pedreiras.
"I'm ready to start playing again," the 27-year-old said. "I'm tired of watching games. I'm ready to go out there and play."
Quill, who also played for the Kansas City Wizards and Tampa Bay Mutiny, strained his left calf on his first lap around the field in his initial attempt to train with the MetroStars.
"He scored a nice goal and he knows his position," Johnston said. "Overall, for him, it was OK. It was just about average. I know there's a lot more in him and obviously he's still getting back from injury."
Quill took a train back to Washington, D.C., on Sunday to join United for their friendly match against the Rochester Raging Rhinos of the United Soccer League's First Division (second tier) Monday and could join the Metros again Tuesday.
"He shows that he still knows how to play," Bradley said. "He's not 100 percent, he's in the process of working his way back."
Because the Metros only had four available substitutes, Kim was forced to play the entire game despite tightness in his calf resulting from getting kicked early in the game. After leaving high school early, Kim played for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL First Division, then played in Germany and for six months in the Korean First Division.
"Chucky's a bit inexperienced, he was all over the place and held onto the ball a bit too much," Johnston said. "But overall it was an all right performance."
He trained and played in two reserve games for the Galaxy but when his options in his hometown didn't pan out, he decided to try his luck with the Metros.
"It would be a dream come true," Kim said of signing with the MetroStars. "I just want to play soccer and I know I can play on the next level. It's just a matter of patience."
Guest players Jerrod Laventure and Robbens Jerome scored second half goals for the Metros, which improved to 3-2-2 in the reserve division.
Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.