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November 3, 2012
10 Red Bulls players, coaches and game officials who have worn the horns

By Michael Lewis Editor

We all like to play the blame game. It's never our fault. It's someone else's.

That goes double in the post-season, especially when the Red Bulls/MetroStars have been involved.

Some of their MLS playoff defeats have been self-inflicted, others from outside sources. This story is a look at some of the goats in club playoff history as part of a three-part story about the heroes, villains and goats in the team's post-season history.

So, here's a short list of finger pointing:

1. Rob Johnson, forward (1996)

The MetroStars' playoff futility had to start somewhere and it began in the very first season. Like it or not, but the former Rutgers standout let to the team's ultimate demise in the third and final game of the Eastern Conference semifinals elimination by eventual champion D.C. United. With the series and game both tied at 1-1, Johnson fouled Marco Etcheverry inside the penalty area. Referee Brian Hall ruled a penalty kick and Raul Diaz Arce converted in the 89th minute. A few minutes later D.C. had a 2-1 win. "There was no question about the penalty," MetroStars coach Carlos Queiroz told the New York Times. "Soccer is not a fair game. It's not fair to lose like that in the last minute." Incidentally, that was Queiroz's last game with the team as he left several days later to guide Grampus Eight in Japan, which gave him a three-year contract for $6 million.

2. Rafa Marquez, midfielder (2011)

Marquez is the only Red Bull to be red carded after the final whistle, just moments after referee Alex Prus signaled the LA Galaxy had secured a 1-0 victory at Red Bull Arena after the Western Conference semifinal first leg last year. Marquez threw the ball at U.S. international Landon Donovan, which started a post-game melee. Marquez was slapped with a red card along with LA's Juninho. Both players will misssed second leg in Carson, Calif. and Marquez was slapped with a three-game suspension that lasted into the opening two matches of this season.

3. Clint Mathis, midfielder-forward (2003)

After dominating teams in 2000 and early 2001 and returning from an ACL injury to score a textbook goal at the 2002 World Cup, Mathis never really lived up to his promise and reputation. Mathis was blanked in the playoff elimination loss to the New England Revolution. After the MetroStars lost the first leg of the total goals series at home, 2-0, Mathis went into the Giants Stadium stands to confront some unhappy fans. It was not a sight the team needed or wanted. Mathis left to play for Hannover 96 in Germany.

4. Jorge Reyes, assistant referee (2000)

Reyes, an assistant referee, disallowed what the MetroStars and many observers claimed was a valid goal in the 63rd minute of the third and final MLS semifinal match against the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field. The score was tied at 2-2 at time when Adolfo Valencia scored a goal. Or so he thought. According to the New York Times, "Valencia, who not only appeared to be onside, but had also seen the Fire's Jesse Marsch play the ball first, was livid at the call." MetroStars goalkeeper Mike Ammann cursed the officiating and Tab Ramos complained about the call. And the MetroStars were livid after the game, which was won by the Fire, 3-2, on an Ante Razov goal in the 88th minute. "We had a clear goal taken away from us," Ramos was quoted by The Times, "and the refereeing was awful. To lose like this was a shame." He wasn't the only one angry. "This is a huge problem, not just for us now, but for MLS This is supposed to be a FIFA referee, and everyone can see that he stole from us tonight," former Germany star and defender Lothar Matthaeus told the paper. Referee Tim Weyland reportedly was escorted from the field by security guards after the final whistle.

5. Gilmar, midfielder (2001)

He became the first MetroStar to be red carded in a playoff game, receiving his marching orders from referee Terry Vaughn in the 65th minute of the team's 1-1 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy (opponents have been given the ultimate card five times in the post-season) in the first game of an opening round series. The MetroStars played 18 minutes a man down before Paul Caligiuri, who scored L.A.'s goal, was dismissed.

6. and 7. Mike Petke, defender, and Mike Duhaney, midfielder (1998)

OK, Petke and Duhaney weren't the only reasons why the MetroStars lost a shootout to the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference semifinals. But they missed their shootout attempts after a 1-1 tie as the visitors registered a 3-2 tie-breaking win to clinch a spot in the conference final. Columbus goalkeeper Juergen Sommer, who was born in New York City, stopped both of their shots after the Crew won the first encounter at home, 5-3.

8. Bob Bradley, coach (2003)

Bradley's decision was not made during the playoffs, but it affected the Eastern Conference semifinal series. In the final game of the regular season against the New England Revolution, Bradley decided to rest regulars. The Revs won and secured second place over the MetroStars, who finished third. The Revs got the home-field advantage in the total goals series, hosting the second game. Bradley sloughed off the importance of finishing second. The Revs won both legs, 2-0, and moved on as the MetroStars continue to wallow in playoff futility. Who knows what would have happened if the Metros enjoyed the advantage? Perhaps things could have been different if the MetroStars had the final game at home. Maybe not. But it was dubious strategy at the time and there likely is no coach today who would make such a decision with so much on the line.

9. Bora Milutinovic, coach (1998)

Do you really think the MetroStars had any sort of a chance in the playoffs against the Columbus Crew after the former U.S. national coach took over for the fired Alfonso Mondelo late in the season? Bora never understood MLS rules. After winning his regular-season finale, the Red Bulls went down twice to the Crew in the opening round, dropping a 5-3 fiasco in Columbus (it was over, 4-0, at the half) before losing in a shootout at home.

10. Bruce Arena coach (2007)

For some reason, Clint Mathis became persona non grata for Arena during the stretch run. Arena decided to use Mathis, in his second stint with the team, turned into Claudio Reyna's caddy in the playoffs. He replaced the team captain in the 86th minute of the scoreless draw in the first leg and took over for an ailing Reyna in the 26th minute of the 1-0 loss in the second leg. Arena would have been wiser to start Mathis instead of have him taking a secondary role.

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