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Dan Metzger poised to fulfill pro dream after shedding Red Bulls homegrown tag

Dan Metzger MLS Combine 4

Photo courtesy of Andy Mead/MLS
 

By FRANCO PANIZO

If things had played out differently, Dan Metzger would already be a member of the New York Red Bulls. Metzger, however, chose a different path.

Metzger will be one of the players up for selection during Thursday afternoon’s MLS Draft, and is projected to be a first-round selection. His solid body of work during his four years at Maryland is a big reason for that, but so too is his decision to shed his Homegrown Player tag from the Red Bulls.

Growing up in central New Jersey, Metzger was part of the Red Bulls’ academy during his formative years. The 21-year-old defensive midfielder represented the club as a youngster, watched the full team, looked up to players like Dax McCarty, but ultimately decided that it was in his best interest not to sign with an organization that carries a negative stigma in regards to how it treats homegrowns.

From the initial New York homegrown Giorgi Chirgadze to Juan Agudelo to Sacir Hot and even currently Connor Lade, the Red Bulls have had a tough time transitioning youngsters from their youth teams to their first team. It’s been an ongoing issue for the club that’s drawn a lot of attention throughout MLS, and something that Metzger was well aware of when he chose to work on removing his homegrown label.

“With the Red Bulls, for me, they bring in all these top players, which is fine and everything,” Metzger recently told SBI. “They want to win and everything, but it makes you realize how you’re going to fit in there when you’re playing with players like Thierry Henry, obviously, and Tim Cahill.

“It’s obviously tough, but at certain clubs you have Homegrown Players that homegrown is important to them. I think Colorado does really well with that, New England does really well with that. I think it varies from club to club, I think it just depends on where you’e at.”

Metzger knows that the Red Bulls are in a tough market, where there are high expectations that lead to what some call an over-reliance on older players. He gets it and knows that the club is working hard now to change that perception and put more of an emphasis on developing younger talent.

Even so, Metzger still feels like he made the right decision. The feedback he got from one of the club’s homegrowns was enough to convince him of that.

“I was very close with Juan Agudelo,” said Metzger. “We grew up together playing and I got his perspective on the whole homegrown thing when he was (on the) Red Bulls. Basically, he just felt like he wasn’t getting looked at as highly as the other players that were coming in, not being homegrown.

“That gave me a lot of perspective, which actually led me to take a further look into trying to get out of my homegrown rights. But the Red Bulls are changing. I think they are trying to do the right thing now. (Recent homegrown signing) Sean Davis, I think they’re going to be helping him out a lot and improve the whole stigma on Homegrown Players.”

Instead of signing with the Red Bulls, the 5-foot-10 Metzger chose to enter the recently-concluded MLS Combine. There, he believed he would have a chance to impress all the MLS clubs in an up-close-and-personal setting.

Unfortunately for Metzger, his combine was cut short by an injury. At the end of a solid first-day performance in which he moved the ball tidily and quickly and was team captain, the former Terrapin took a knock that ruled him out for the remainder of the event.

He didn’t have another chance to make his case in South Florida, but his Day 1 showing combined with his four seasons at Maryland – where he scored eight goals and had four assists in 88 games – were more than enough to make a lasting impression on several of the coaches that will be drafting in Philadelphia on Thursday.

“I think he’s a good passer,” new New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch told SBI. “He’s smart about also how he moves around defensively to cut off passing lanes and angles. He makes it look easy because of his intelligence on the field. We don’t necessarily have a need in that position, but I think he’s done well for himself and he’s someone that we’re considering.”

Added Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath to SBI: “I thought he did well. It’s obviously been disappointing for him because he obviously got a knock, but he played well in the first day, showed one or two qualities that we’d obviously seen through the year.”

In terms of skills and playing style, Metzger compares his game to that of Red Bulls defensive midfielder Dax McCarty. Not only do the two of them play the same position, but Metzger believes they both play simple, are clean on the ball, can shoot from distance and are strong passers.

Metzger also thinks that his versatility and athleticism are overlooked attributes, but are part of the reason why he received a call-up to a U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team camp last August.

“Not that I think I’m criticized for not being athletic, but I think I’m underrated athletically and I feel like I’m a very versatile player,” said Metzger. “When I was with the Red Bulls reserves back before college, I was playing sort of on the outside and I did really well there, so I’m a pretty very versatile player.

“I feel like I can adjust to all positions, but my position is definitely defensive mid. I can read the game pretty well, good in the air, I judge the ball really well in the air, and I have a good shot from distance. I’d say, overall, defensive mid is my best position, but I feel like I can handle anywhere throughout the midfield.”

Soon, Metzger will have the opportunity to showcase all those skills in MLS. His name will likely be called before the end of the first round on Thursday, but probably by one of the 19 teams not named the New York Red Bulls.

“Nothing against the Red Bulls – I love their coaches there, they helped me a lot – but in the long run I just thought it would benefit me more if I had the opportunity to go to the combine, get more looks from other places,” said Metzger on removing his homegrown tag. “It opened up some doors for me and it’ll be interesting to see where I get picked up, and hopefully I’ll have an impact on a team right away as opposed if I go to the Red Bulls.

“They have a lot of players in my positions, especially after signing Sean Davis, who plays a similar position to me. I just felt like it would give me more opportunities to have an impact on a team right away.”

Comments

  1. yeah, who on earth would want to go to train wreck REd Bulls. They got rid of best coach they ever had and alienated entire fan base (we’re not going to the arena this year). How could a young player like this feel secure or helped by that place?
    #MetroFailure is right sadly

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  2. Red bulls and fc dallas, i wouldn’t sign a hgp contact with them. They don’t get a “fair shake”. Why do you think ambrose signed elsewhere?

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  3. As a DCU fan, I’m stoked to have a US U-23 caliber player joining the team, especially one that came through the NYRB academy and actively avoided becoming a homegrown player for them. Sounds like another version of #MetroFailure

    It’s also always nice to get guys from our local college programs, which have solid records of producing pros.

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    • I’m right there with you. Poor form to criticize the team publicly. Shows he might have the same entitled mentality as Agudelo, who for all of his talent, is out of soccer right now.

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    • You are right. Apparently, he isn’t all ‘that.’ That said,…I would much prefer to see a trend where youth players ARE given a chance to succeed or fail. I am surely not a fan of the revolving door of mediocre to poor foreign players who roll in and out of the club.

      I for one am tired of the constant turnover.

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    • The US soccer community generally sh!ts on college soccer,…and some of the criticisms are merited, of course. However, to your point, Juan could have gone to a D1 program that suited him socially and academically and had the time of his life. Instead, he has had a world wind tour to nowhere. Granted college is not for everybody,…but it can be a very special time in one’s life and you wonder, with the benefit of hindsight if he would have been MUCH better off enjoying school and getting a degree.

      Bill Walton expresses this sentiment much more eloquently than I’d do but you get the idea.

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  4. Seeing how Red Bulls is cutting back and trying to field teams on the cheap, he probably would have been a starter this year if he was good enough. Not so smart.

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  5. MLS could set a precedent in these cases by taking a page out of MLB’s book.

    If the Cubs draft a guy with the #3 pick in 2014 and he doesn’t sign with them at all, they get the #4 pick in the 2015 draft. (It results in more 1st round picks than their are teams) MLS could give NYRB a pick below wherever Metzger is taken in next year’s draft.

    Everyone wins, NYRB gets value in having helped develop him. Metzger gets to go somewhere else.

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  6. Part of Ali Curtis’ 300 page “really sophisticated” plan for RBNY is to sign super cheap young players like this guy. He should pay more attention! Also, the reason Connor Lade didn’t “transition” smoothly is because he isn’t good enough to play in MLS! Hans Backe gave him tons of chances in multiple positions and he was awful in all of them. They blew it with Amando Moreno though. No big deal here, he plays the position where RBNY already have two decent players.

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    • The most important part of his plan according to Ali, himself, is to forge a strong connection with the supporters. Let’s see, how can I foster such a relationship? I know, let’s fire their beloved manager who grew up in the area and played more matches for the side than anyone else in their history! Wait… what?

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  7. Yeah, pretty straightforward for Metzger. NYRB have a real issue on their hands if players they’ve developed are making a conscious decision not to sign with them. That can have long-term player development repercussions.

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    • Not really, this is more about this guy getting a few extra bucks and knowing that he won’t play much with Dax and Alexander in front of him. Considering he’s already wasted four years playing college soccer, he doesn’t have that much time to wait around.

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  8. Not much to understand

    He didn’t sign with NY

    He can do whatever he wants. He wanted to enter the MLS draft. He did.

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    • I think there is much to understand. If players are able to develop in one club’s youth system, and then offer their services to any other team in the league, without the developing club getting any compensation, there will be no incentive to develop players. Considering MLS does everything in it parity to promote parity and avoid free agency, this situation seems like one that needs an explanation. I would assume that homegrown player claims run out at some point. So if a homegrown graduates from college, and the club that owns his rights does not offer him a contract, it would make sense that the homegrown rights are voided, and he could then enter the draft or be a free agent. But if the club wants to sign him, and he says, I’d rather play for another team in the league, what about hose homegrown rights? Did he appeal the league? Was he not offered a contract from Red Bull?

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      • I can’t find anywhere that mentions a player has to accept a homegrown contract. Just that clubs can offer them. I’m guessing it’s up to the player. Usually it would seem logical since only one team can sign that player to a homegrown contract, and they do it early, so players are getting paid younger without being on the senior team in most cases. But in his case it sounds like he gambled, turned down the contract, went to college and is hoping to make more now and for a different team.

        Technically, he could’ve still signed a homegrown contract right up until the draft since they maintain eligibility throughout college. He just really doesn’t want to play for the Red Bulls lol.

  9. Smart move by Metzger. Teams are allowed 2 homegrown players above the min salary. Red Bulls already have Conor Lade and Matt Miazga making more. Senior contracts pay better.

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  10. “Metzger chose to enter the recently-concluded MLS Combine.”

    And how exactly does that work? As I reader, I’d like to know how it is that Metzger was able to do this. Considering the precedent it sets, this is “decision” that needs clarification.

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