Metros keep focus on league play

E. RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Los Angeles Galaxy got to play Real Madrid, the Chicago Fire faces A.C. Milan and D.C. United takes on Chelsea. The MetroStars? They played the Rochester Rhinos at Frontier Field in a less than memorable friendly June 27.

The World Series of Football will be a big chance for MLS to earn some respect worldwide and an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of the league's players. But not for the MetroStars; they're left to watch at home on TV.

"There's been grumbling around here," Metros coach Bob Bradley said. "How come we're not playing Chelsea? How come we're not playing A.C. Milan? The answer that I give them is that we have to continue to improve as a team and we're going to win something and then we're going to get to play these teams."

To make matters worse, A.C. Milan and Chelsea will both make the trip to New York, but to play each other at Giants Stadium on July 31.

"You can't control who you're playing but I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't like to play against teams like that," Metros defender Chris Leitch said. "I'd like to watch a team like that in person, let alone play against them. You just hope the MLS team does well."

Does that mean that Leitch is rooting for MLS teams, including rival D.C. United?

"That will be the first time I root for D.C.," he said. "Hopefully they do well." Midfielder Mark Lisi knows stars like David Beckham, Paolo Maldini and Frank Lampard aren't viewing the game as a holiday stateside.

"They're in their preseason and they're not going to stroll around," he said. "They're coming here to play. If (the MLS teams) aren't ready to play, it could be a long afternoon. It's a great opportunity for everybody. Hopefully it will help the league grow. If they didn't want to come here, they wouldn't."

But while they'd love to play an A.C. Milan, the MetroStars are realistic. They're currently in a three-team logjam in the middle of the Eastern Conference and play at Columbus on Wednesday in the second of four games in a span of 11 days. They have enough soccer in front of them.

"It would be a wonderful opportunity but realistically we have a busy schedule," defender Carlos Mendes said. "League games come first. It would have been nice but we have a long road trip in front of us and we need to be prepared."

Dylan Butler is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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