Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The phrase "That's so Metro" has become prevalent to a point in which the average American soccer fan is familiar with the idiom despite having no emotional ties to the Red Bull New York franchise.
For the layperson, "That's so Metro" is a meme that's been bandied about for some time to underline New York's penchant for underachievement in its 18-year existence, dating back to its inaugural season when the club was known as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars.
Nicola Caricola conceding an own in the dying seconds of the club's first-ever home match to gift the New England Revolution a 1-0 victory in 1996: That's so Metro. Entering its 18th season as the only original MLS club without a major trophy: That's so Metro. Rafa Marquez: So incredibly Metro.
The Metro-ness manifested itself in the Red Bulls' Eastern Conference playoff series against the Houston Dynamo, starting with the opening leg at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday. New York held a two-goal advantage only to concede two second-half goals to the Dynamo, erasing all of the good work the visitors had done to build a comfortable advantage to that point.
The draw set up a must-win match at home for Wednesday's second leg, and it was going swimmingly after Bradley Wright-Phillips pounced on a rebound conceded by Tally Hall in the 23rd minute and slotted home the loose ball from close range.
But a misplaced pass from a visibly injured Ibrahim Sekagya nine minutes before halftime gifted Brad Davis a free shot on goal from 12 yards out, which he took with great aplomb to equalize for the Dynamo. It was a moment that encapsulated everything there is to know about a frustrated fan base starved for MLS Cup glory.
Houston went on to claim a 2-1 win (4-3 on aggregate) in extra time, dashing New York's realistic hopes of hosting - and hoisting - its first-ever MLS Cup.
What made the Red Bulls' defeat all the more somber was that they dominated play from the opening whistle, outshooting the Dynamo 23-9 on the night.
"We didn't finish," Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said after the match. "I think we were a bit off on our crossing, our passing. I think we were a bit too urgent for most of the night instead of calming the match down. At the end of the day, they did what they had to do to come in here and get a result. And our hats are off to Houston."
But while New York's hangover will be one of sorrow in the wake of Sekagya's early holiday gift to the Dynamo and the club's inability to convert a plethora of scoring opportunities, the legacy of the 2013 season should be remembered as anything but Metro.
The Red Bulls finally broke their long-awaited silverware drought this season by finishing atop the overall MLS table to clinch the Supporters' Shield. That it was achieved under a first-year head coach, a man who is just three years removed from an entirely domestic 13-season playing career, is even more impressive.
Petke opined that the Red Bulls were victims of their own errors in isolated incidents, something that would cost any team dearly in a playoff format.
"It was individual mistakes, and they happen," Petke said. "That happens a lot, and it happens to everybody. A missed crossed, a bad touch. Whereas I don't think we saw (much) of that during the year, as in years past, it seems to have crept up on us in the playoffs."
Therein lies the overriding point. With two separated prizes awarded over the course of an MLS season, a club can attain a piece of silverware by either being the best team over eight months (Supporters' Shield) or five weeks (MLS Cup). Mistakes are magnified in the MLS Cup playoffs due to the small timeframe of the competition, which is why New York's compounded errors over the two- legged series with Houston cost the club.
But that does not take away from the fact the Red Bulls achieved a major feat this season by winning the Supporters' Shield. They were the best team in the league for the longest period of time, and no postseason misfire can erase the club's name on the Shield.
And with a strong nucleus of veteran talent and a budding coach that understands the MLS landscape at the helm, perhaps it's time that a new phrase is coined in Harrison, N.J.: So not Metro.