Guillermo Barros Schelotto receives his MVP award at the 2008 MLS Cup. (Wade Jackson/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Since the Red Bulls/MetroStars have lost more games (27) than they have won (20) in the MLS Cup Playoffs, it is only natural that they have more villains than heroes (they have played eight draws).
So, who’s your poison on the player who has poisoned the team the most in two-plus decades appearances heading into Saturday’s first-round, winner-take all encounter with FC Cincinnati at Red Bull Arena.
Fifty players have victimized the MetroStars/Red Bulls in the postseason since 1996.
So, in order of destruction, presenting the Red Bulls’ rogues gallery of opponents:
1. Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Columbus Crew (2008)
He set up all of the Crew’s goals in their 3-1 win over the Red Bulls in the MLS Cup in Carson, Calif. Red Bulls midfielder Dave Van den Bergh made a tactical mistake on the sideline, waiting for the ball to go out of bounds. It was close, but apparently the assistant referee and referee Baldomero Toledo did not think so. Schelotto, the regular-season MVP, picked up the ball and passed to Alejandro Moreno, who raced into the penalty area. Moreno sent a 12-yard shot that an outstretched goalkeeper Danny Cepero barely got a hand on. The ball hit the left post and settled into the net. Two minutes after equalizing in the 51st minute, the Red Bulls committed one of the cardinal sins of soccer less than two minutes later, allowing Columbus to retake the lead. This time Schelotto sent a corner kick into the area that defender Chad Marshall sent a bullet into the net from six yards on the right near post for a 2-1 Crew advantage. Fight fullback Frankie Hejduk made sure the Crew had some breathing room in the 82nd minute when the veteran defender ran onto a chipped pass from a Schelotto and headed it past Cepero, who had come out of the net, from eight yards.
2. Christian Gomez, D.C. United (2006)
He hurt the Red Bulls not once, but twice in the Eastern Conference semifinals. He connected on a brilliant effort, thanks to a pass from one-time MetroStars forward Jaime Moreno, to give the visitor’s a 1-0 edge in the 77th minute in the first encounter on Oct. 21. After rookie Jozy Altidore gave the Red Bulls some life with a 70th-minute score at RFK Stadium eight days later, Gomez broke the Red Bulls hearts for good, scoring against then coach Bruce Arena’s side in the 86th minute to lift United to a 2-1 total-goals win.
3. Khano Smith, New England Revolution (2005)
There are many players who can be considered viable candidates for the top spot. How about Revs midfielder Khano Smith, who a year earlier that Gomez’s dastardly heroics, crushed the MetroStars’ dreams of toppling favored New England. All Red Bulls fans know the story. But just in case you don’t, here are the sordid details. In the first leg of the series, under then interim coach Mo Johnston, the Red Bulls stunned the Revs with a 1-0 win at The Swamp. in the 59th minute of the second leg of the total goals series at Gillette Stadium, Youri Djorkaeff, off a Sergio Galvan Rey feed, lifted the MetroStars into a 2-0 lead. Only 31 minutes from the promised land of the conference finals. That should have been a safe lead, right? Wrong! Second-half sub Jose Cancela, only six minutes after he came on for ex-MetroStars Daniel Hernandez, cut the lead in half in the 68th minute. Five minutes later, Cancela turned playmaker, setting up MetroStars killer Pat Noonan for the equalizer in the 73rd minute. Then Smith, who had replaced Marshall Leonard in the 23rd minute, connected in the 83rd minute to give the Revs a memorable (and the MetroStars a forgettable) 3-2 win (or 3-2 loss).
4. Raul Diaz Arce, D.C. United (1996)
There might be players who have scored more goals in a game that this former El Salvadoran international, but nothing is more devastating that an 89th-minute goal in an elimination match. First, some history. In the first game of this best-of-three quarterfinals match, Diaz Arce scored D.C.’s first goal and set up Jaime Moreno’s go-ahead goal in the 56th minute before Giovanni Savarese came back to tie in the 75th minute. That set up a dreaded shootout that the MetroStars prevailed in, 6-5. MetroStars goalkeeper Tony Meola saved Diaz Arce’s attempt. Former Rutgers standout Rob Johnson fouled Marco Etcheverry in the penalty area deep into regulation. Diaz Arce converted the ensuing penalty against Meola. United, as we all know, went on to win the very first MLS Cup and started the league’s first dynasty (three titles in four years, plus another in 2004). Who knows what would have happened had the MetroStars prevailed in the playoff series and what league history would have been?
5. Ante Razov, Chicago Fire (2000)
This was probably the best chance the MetroStars had of going to MLS Cup in their early years because the 2000 team was easily the best in club history, thanks to its fire power and take no prisoners defense. Razov’s name will live in New York infamy because of the goal he scored in the 88th minute of the third and final game of the semifinals (the only time the MetroStars had journeyed that far). The goal broke a 2-2 deadlock in the 88th minute.
6. Mike Magee (2011)
A former Red Bulls midfielder-forward, Magee tallied the lone goal in a 1-0 Western Conference semifinal first-leg win at Red Bull Arena on Oct. 30. Magee had only five goals in 27 regular-season games for the Galaxy. David Beckham started the scoring sequence, sending in a long-range pass into the penalty area. The Red Bulls’ backline held up its hands in unison, signifying offside. But the assistant referee and referee Alex Prus would have none of that. With plenty of room — right fullback Carlos Mendes was the nearest Red Bull — Magee volleyed the ball into the far right post and past goalkeeper Frank Rost for a 1-0 Galaxy advantage. “One-hundred percent I was not offsides,” Magee said. “Even if I was, he didn’t call it, so I wasn’t.” In the Nov. 4 return leg, Magee scored the first goal in a 2-1 win that clinched a spot in the conference final.
7. Pat Noonan, New England Revolution (2003)
Noonan scored eight goals — that’s right, count ’em — eight goals against the MetroStars during the month of October and November that year as a rookie. None were lethal than the ones in the playoffs. He scored one in each the playoff games in the first time the Red Bulls performed in an aggregate goals series. In the first game at Giants Stadium (remember when coach Bob Bradley rested key players in a 5-2 loss in the season-finale to the Revs a week prior? He said it didn’t matter if the team finished second or third), Noonan connected for the second goal in the 65th minute (Dario Fabbro had the first in the 17th minute) to give the Revs a commanding 2-0 advantage entering the second leg. Noonan struck again in the minute in Foxborough before Amado Guevara converted what turned into a meaningless penalty kick a minute into first-half stoppage time.
8. and 9. Faja Picault and Marco Fabian (2019)
I’m grouping these two players together because of what they accomplished. This website called the game “A comedown of epic proportions” for the losers. The Red Bulls squandered a two-goal lead on the road in a mind-boggling 4-3 defeat to the Philadelphia Union Oct. 20, 2019. Leading 3-1 in the second half, the Red Bulls allowed Jack Elliott score in the 52nd minute. Faja Picault finished a Sergio Santos right-wing cross from six yards past Robles to complete a stunning comeback to knot the match at 3-3 in the 78 minute. Marco Fabian scored from a difficult angle from the left side of the penalty area past goalkeeper Luis Robles in the 105th minute to climax a remarkable two-goal comeback for a 4-3 Philadelphia triumph at Talen Energy Stadium. After securing an impressive 3-1 halftime lead, the sixth-seeded side allowed it to slip away as the Philadelphia Union recorded one of the great comeback victories in the league’s 25-year playoff history. It also was one of the great collapses in MLS playoff history as well.
10. Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact (2016)
Ignacio conjured up his magic early and late in the second half of a 2-1 win over the Red Bulls in the second leg of the Eastern Conference final series at Red Bull Arena, after a 1-0 first-leg victory. He tallied in the 51st minute for a 1-0 lead. After Bradley Wright-Phillips made life interesting in the 77th minute, Piatti found the range again in the 85th. The man who had an assist on each of the goals? Former Red Bulls forward Dominic Oduro.
11. Nick DeLeon, D.C. United (2012)
DeLeon did in the Red Bulls with a dramatic 88th-minute goal at cold Red Bull Arena. DeLeon, whose father Leroy DeLeon performed for the New York Generals in the old National Professional Soccer League in 1967 and 1968, took a pass from Robbie Russell and beat goalkeeper Luis Robles for the game-winner in a game that was delayed a day by a nor’easter snowstorm. United won the game, 1-0, and the Eastern Conference semifinals series, 2-1, as New York was eliminated.
12. Joe Willis, D.C. United (2012)
D.C.’s back-up goalkeeper turned into the unlikely hero in this Eastern Conference semifinal series second leg. After taking a pass from Dax McCarty, Cooper was tripped by goalkeeper Bill Hamid just inside the penalty area. Referee Mark Geiger immediately signaled for a penalty kick and red carded Hamid in the 69th minute. United coach Ben Olsen was forced to replace midfielder Branko Boskovic with reserve keeper Joe Willis for Cooper’s penalty kick attempt. Cooper waited for Willis, inserted cold into the match, to make his move and he fired his attempt into the lower left corner in the 73rd minute. However, the goal did not count as Geiger ruled that players had encroached in the area during the kick and had the kick retaken. Replays showed that Thierry Henry and an unidentified United defender had encroached. On his second try, also in the 73rd minute, Cooper decided to fire his shot to the lower right. This time Willis guessed correctly and made the save.
13. Omar Cummings, Houston Dynamo (2013)
The Jamaican international struck not once but once in each game of the 2013 Eastern Conference semifinals series to eliminate the Red Bulls once again. Cummings, who missed most of the regular season with injuries, tallied the equalizer in a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Houston and the game- and series- winner at RBA in a 2-1 win in the second leg. Kofi Sarkodie sent a right-wing feed to extra-tme substitute Cam Weaver in the penalty area. Weaver headed the ball to Cummings, who slotted the ball toward the lower right corner. Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles tried to stop the ball, but it trickled just over the goal line for the go-ahead goal as the stadium crowd of 22,264 fell silent.
14. Charlie Davies, New England Revolution (2014)
Striker Charlie Davies showed the Red Bulls the playoff door again. He struck twice for the Revs, including the game-equalizer, which also was the series game-winner, in the 70th minute at Gillette Stadium. After securing a 2-1 triumph over the Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena, New England played New York to a 2-2 draw a week later. After the Red Bulls grabbed a 1-0 lead, the Revs knotted things up in the 41st minute off a corner kick sequence started by Chris Tierney on the right side. Tierney passed the ball to Lee Nguyen, who nudged it back to the midfielder. Tierney sent the ball to the left post where Charlie Davies headed the ball home from four yards for a 1-1 tie. New England and Davies took advantage of a Red Bulls defensive error in the 70th minute. Ambroise Oyongo, who replaced the suspended Roy Miller at left back, collided with Robles while going for the ball in the penalty area. What should have been a regular play, Robles wound up scrambling for. He managed to get to the ball before a Revolution player, but New England kept the ball in play. Tierney then launched a left-flank cross that Davies headed in from point-blank range the far right side past Robles.
15. Josef Martinez, Atlanta United (2018)
The Red Bulls were Supporters Shield champions and conceded only 33 goals in 34 matches sporting the league’s defense. They were hopeful of reaching their second and winning their first MLS Cup. They also were buoyed by the fact they had never lost to Atlanta. Well, there’s a first time for everything as Josef Martinez broke the dam in the 32nd minute in the first leg of the Eastern Conference final series in Atlanta Franco Escobar doubled the margin in the 71st minute and Hector Villaba added a stoppage-time goal in the 95th minute. Martinez’s goal was no mistake as he finished the season with a then-record 31 goals (since broken by LAFC striker Carlos Vela). The 3-0 defeat buried the Red Bulls, who finally found the net in stoppage time in a 1-0 second-left win. Way too little and way too late.
16. Chad Marshall, Columbus Crew (2008)
His goal off a Schelotto corner kick in the 53rd minute broke a 1-1 draw and gave Columbus the lead for good in the MLS Cup. For more details, see the Schelotto item.
17. Mauricio Cienfuegos, Los Angeles Galaxy (2001)
OK, it wasn’t the most magnificent goal that Cienfuegos had scored in his illustrious career. But it counted for the one-time El Salvadoran international in what turned into a 4-2 triumph at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 29, 2001. Cienfuegos’ free kick was deflected into the net past goalkeeper Tim Howard eight minutes into extratime to give the MetroStars the boot. Cienfuegos also helped set up Sasha Victorine’s second goal of the match in the 33rd minute. This was when the playoffs were a three-game series and the first team to get five or more points would be declared the winner.
18. Bobby Convey, San Jose Earthquakes (2010)
Convey, who scored all of three goals during the regular season last year, struck not once, but twice to spark the Quakes to a 3-1 victory over the Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals at Red Bull Arena last Nov. 4. The 3-2 win gave San Jose a 3-2 victory in the total goals series. His second goal was devastating. He connected in the 76th minute to lift the Quakes to a 2-0 lead in the game and 2-1 advantage in the series. Convey beat central defender Tim Ream in the penalty area and over goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul.
17. Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes (2010)
Wondo struck in the 81st minute to give the Earthquakes that 3-1 victory over the Red Bulls last year, which lifted the visitors to a 3-2 triumph in the total goals series. Wondolowski blooped a header over Coundoul for what proved to be the winning score before a crowd of 22,839 at Red Bull Arena, a club record for a playoff match.
20. Alejandro Moreno, Columbus Crew (2008)
He scored the first goal of the Crew’s 3-1 win over the Red Bulls in the MLS Cup final. For more details, see the Schelotto item.
21. Juergen Sommer, Columbus Crew (1998)
Yes, putting shootout heroics this high makes the author uneasy, but the rules are the rules and Sommer and the Crew certainly followed them. In the Eastern Conference semifinals series opener, the Columbus Crew easily defeated the MetroStars at home, 5-3. In the next match at the Meadowlands, the home team battled the visitors tough and a 1-1 draw. That forced a shootout in which Sommer, who was born in New York City, and the Crew prevailed. Sommer made a pair of shootout saves — on Mike Duhaney and Mike Petke (the game-winner or loser, depending on what side you were on) as the MetroStars exited the playoffs for the second time.
22. Taylor Twellman, New England Revolution (2007)
After playing to a scoreless draw in the first leg at Giants Stadium, the Red Bulls were optimistic they could make a game of it and even win at the horror show of a stadium that call Gillette. Well, they certainly made a game of it, but could not solve Matt Reis as Twellman scored in the 64th minute. What made matters even worse was the fact the Red Bulls were playing with 10 men at the time as striker Juan Pablo Angel was on the sideline after he was kneed in the jaw in a 50-50 challenge by defender Jay Heaps. Coach Bruce Arena was trying to figure out whether to play the former Colombian international when Twellman found the back of the net.
23. Jay Heaps, New England Revolution (2007)
He didn’t do it on purpose, but you don’t have to score or set up a goal to be a villain. Who knows what would have happened if Angel did not leave the game and had an opportunity to score. Knowing the history of this team, they would have found a way to mangle things up.
24. Matteo Mancosu, Montreal Impact (2016)
Mancosu tallied in the 61st minute of the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal series, a 1-0 Montreal home win. The defeat snapped two long Red Bulls’ streak — a 16-game MLS unbeaten streak and a 20-match undefeated streak in all competition. The Red Bulls captured the Eastern Conference regular season title.
25. Justin Meram, Columbus Crew (2015)
Just back from a rather useless roundtrip to Asia while not seeing a minute for the Iraq national team in World Cup qualifying, did not waste any time against the Red Bulls, scoring nine seconds after kickoff of the first leg of the Eastern Conference final series in Columbus. A long ball from Kei Kamara was sent into the penalty area that Ethan Finlay headed down to Meram, who scored from 12 yards on the right side past goalkeeper Luis Robles to give Columbus a stunning 1-0 advantage.
26. Jaime Moreno, D.C. United (2004)
Now what would a rogues gallery be against New York without Moreno? He collected a goal and an assist in the 2004 playoffs. He set up Alecko Eskandarian’s insurance goal in the 2-0 win in the opener at Giants Stadium. He then hammered yet another nail into the MetroStars coffin with the first strike in the 85th minute in the 2-0 victory at RFK a week later. In six playoff games against this club, Moreno has two goals and three assists. He also has dominated the franchise during the regular season.
27. Jakob Glesnes
Glesnes, a finalist for the 2022 MLS defender of the year, finished off the Red Bulls in a first-round encounter on Nov. 20, 2021. With time running out deep into stoppage of extratime and the match heading for penalty kicks, Glesnes drilled a 25-yard shot to lift the Philadelphia to a 1-0 victory at Subaru Park in Chester, Pa.
28. Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC (2017)
The Italian striker connected for the game-winning goal of a 2-1 Toronto win in the first leg of the Eastern Conference series. Giovinco drilled one of his patented free kicks — from 25 yards — over the Red Bulls’ wall and into the near left post in the 72nd minute while defender Michael Amir Murillo was late to arrive to guard that post. This item could be moved up, down or remain in the same spot, depending what transpires at BMO Field Sunday.
29. Matt Reis, New England Revolution (2007)
He was in the nets for both games of the series and recorded two clean sheets. He was not credited with a save in the scoreless draw and made four stops in the second leg. Reis has given up only two goals in four playoff matches against the Red Bulls/MetroStars.
30. Sasha Victorine, Los Angeles Galaxy (2001)
Nothing like rising to the occasion with so much on the line — in the decisive first-round encounter at the Rose Bowl. Victorine connected in the 21st and 33rd minutes for a 2-0 L.A. before the MetroStars scored. Before it was a two-in-one game (the Red Bulls lost, 3-2, but captured the extratime to boost its goal total that day to four. Victorine, who recently returned to the west coast after the Kansas City Wizards traded him to Chivas USA, found the back of the net three times in as many playoff games that season.
31. Pat Noonan, New England Revolution (2005)
The details are in the Khano Smith item, so we won’t labor the points on somehow who jump-started his career feasting on the MetroStars late in the 2003 season and subsequent playoffs and continued to make life miserable for the team.
32. Jose Cancela, New England Revolution (2003, 2005)
He just might the most under-appreciated member of the rogues gallery. But Cancela has been a major thorn in the MetroStars/Red Bulls side. OK, let’s do this in chronological order. Cancela set up both of New England’s goals in the 2003 opener — Dario Fabbro in the 17th minute and Pat Noonan in the 65th minute — en route to a 2-0 win. In the second leg in New England, Cancela was the playmaker to Noonan’s 21st-minute score. In 2005, his output was just as devastating. A 62nd-minute sub for former MetroStars midfielder Daniel Hernandez, Cancela connected for the first goal Revs goal in the 68th minute before teaming with Noonan yet again for the equalizer in the 73rd minute. In four games against the MetroStars, Cancela has scored one goal and helped create four others.
33. Marco Etcheverry, D.C. United (1996)
The former Bolivian international had a goal and an assist against the MetroStars in that playoff encounter. This time it was the Bolivian connection that stood out as Etcheverry put home a Jaime Moreno feed in the 72nd minute of Game 2 (the MetroStars prevailed in the first game via a shootout, 3-2) for a 1-0 victory.
34. Stern John, Columbus Crew (1998)
He wasn’t a one-man wrecking, ahem, Crew, as some players were against the MetroStars, but the Trinidad & Tobago international’s production was just fine. He scored the Crew’s final goal in its 5-3 thumping of the MetroStars (it really wasn’t that close because the MetroStars trailed 5-1 entering the final half hour in Columbus. John scored the equalizer in the 22nd minute of the second game, a 1-1 tie. But John came up big in the shootout, beating keeper Tony Meola for one of three he and his teammates converted.
35. Brian McBride, Columbus Crew (1998)
McBride staked Columbus out to a 2-0 lead, striking in the ninth and 12th minutes in the opening match in Columbus, Ohio on Sept. 30. That set the tone as the Crew grabbed an astounding 4-0 advantage at halftime in what eventually turned into a 5-3 victory.
36. Dema Kovalenko, Chicago Fire (2000)
Yeah, it’s that Dema Kovalenko, the man who was exiled to Real Salt Lake by former Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio in 2008. Kovalenko set the tone of the Fire’s 3-0 victory in the series opener at Solider Field on Sept. 26, 2000. He scored the first goal in the 21st minute and set up the great Hristo Stoitchkov in the 35th minute.
37. Frankie Hejduk, Columbus Crew (2008)
He tallied the insurance goal for Columbus in the MLS Cup final. For more info, Go to the first item about Schelotto.
38. DaMarcus Beasley, Chicago Fire (2000)
He might have been only 17-years-old at the time, but Beasley certainly wasn’t afraid to make an impact as a rookie. He set up a pair of Fire goals — Hristo Stoichkov in the 35th minute for a 1-0 lead against Chicago before finding Ante Razov for an insurance goal in the 84th minute.
39. Hristo Stoitchkov Chicago Fire (2000)
During these playoffs, Stoitchov finished with two goals and one assist vs. the MetroStars in three games. In the first encounter, he ignited the Fire’s 3-0 triumph in the 21st minute en route to a 3-0 victory. He then went full throttle in the second half. He set up C.J. Brown in the third minute and found the back fo the net himself at Soldier Field off a Razov assist in the 3-2 second match.
40. Nick Rimando, D.C. United (2004)
He made 13 saves in both games combined en route to a pair of winning shutouts. Rimando is the only goalkeeper to secure two winning shutouts against the Red Bulls in the same playoff series (Reis had a tie and a win en route to his clean sheets).
41. Earnie Stewart, D.C. United (2004)
He started it off that playoff season, striking in the 67th minute to break a scoreless tie en route to a 2-0 victory in the first encounter.
42. Alecko Eskandarian, D.C. United (2004)
Two years before Eskandarian took a swig of Red Bull and spit it out on the Giants Stadium rug during a goal celebration, the forward was a thorn in the MetroStars side, scoring the second goal and insurance tally in the 2-0 playoff opening win at Giants Stadium on Oct. 23. Eskie did not score in the return leg at RFK, but he certainly did more than enough at the Home Depot Center that November, being name playoff MVP.
43. Paul Caligiuri, Los Angeles Galaxy (2001)
It’s easy for fans to forget that Paul Caligiuri did not only score big goals against Trinidad & Tobago in World Cup qualifying. He pulled off a key one against the MetroStars in Game 1 of the 2001 first-round series. After Rodrigo Faria put in a Adolfo Valencia past to give the visitors a 29th-minute league, Caligiuri converted an Adam Frye has in the 63rd minute.
44. Victor Vasquez, Toronto FC (2017)
Eight minutes into the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal series, former Red Bulls forward Jozy Altidore fired a cross from the right side that goalkeeper Robles sprawled to knock away. The ball went to Vazquez, who drilled a 15-yard shot into the lower right corner to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
45. Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew (2015)
Kamara did it to the Red Bulls twice in the first-leg encounter, setting up Meram’s goal and tapping in a Robles save of a Cedrick Mabwati shot in the 85th minute, which might have sealed the Red Bulls’ fate for the series. Like Meram’s listing, this could move up if the Red Bulls are eliminated Sunday. Mabwati beat second-half sub Gonzalo Veron, Matt Miazga and Dax McCarty before sending in a right-wing feed that Robles managed to tip away. Kamara, however, was on the left and had an easy tap-in for the second goal.
46-48. Pedro Santos, Darlington Nagbe and Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew (2020)
In another first-round elimination, three Crew players helped the Red Bulls see the door again. The visitors could not hold onto a 1-0 lead off a Caden Clark goal in the 23rd minute. Three minutes later, Pedro Santos equalized. In the opening minute of the second half, Nagbe gave the hosts the lead before Zardes added an insurance goal in the 68th minute. That goal was needed because Brian White found the net for the Red Bulls in the 90th minute.
49. Kei Kamara, Houston Dynamo (2008)
Scoring a goal with five minutes remaining in the opening leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal series turned out to be a devastating blow for the Red Bulls, who led 1-0 at the time. Had they gotten out of Giants Stadium with a clean sheet, they would have entered the second leg a lot more confident and with a different game plan. As it turned out, the Red Bulls dominated the second game in Houston and won.
50. Pat Onstad, Houston Dynamo (2008)
To be successful in the MLS playoffs, particularly in the opening-round total-goals series, you don’t necessarily have to be a hot goalkeeper, but rather one who leaves the opposition stone cold these games (especially the first legs) are so tight. How big was Onstad’s save on John Wolyniec in the 89th minute.at Red Bull Arena.