When Derrick Etienne Jr. scored the second goal in the Columbus Crew’s MLS Cup victory over the Seattle Sounders last December, it had to dawn on a few New York Red Bulls fans that they were about to see yet another former Red Bulls/MetroStars player go on to win an MLS Cup title elsewhere after leaving their club.
If it feels almost like a tradition, there is a reason for that. Dating back to 1998, when Zack Thornton and Manny Lagos were part of the Chicago Fire’s MLS Cup-winning expansion team, former MetroStars/Red Bulls have found their way onto a majority of the teams to have lifted the MLS Cup title over the past two decades.
Why bring it up now, almost two months later? The Red Bulls’ Twitter account posted a Super Bowl-themed message on Sunday poking fun at a recent tweet by Penn State, which noted the number of Super Bowls that had featured players from the Nittany Lions:
— Boo York Red Bulls 🎃 (@NewYorkRedBulls) February 7, 2021
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) February 5, 2021
The creative jab was a funny one, but it helped spark a reminder of the Red Bulls’ own precarious history with title games and former players.
Not only have the Red Bulls never won an MLS Cup, but they have an incredible history of seeing former players leave the club and win MLS Cup titles with other teams.
Of the past 23 MLS Cup champions, 18 of them had at least one player on the roster who had previously been with the Red Bulls or MetroStars (the team’s original name prior to the 2005 sale to Red Bull).
If that figure isn’t uncanny enough, consider that of the five MLS-Cup winning teams since 1998 with no former Red Bulls/MetroStars players, one had a head coach who was a former MetroStar (2013 Sporting KC with Peter Vermes) and two had a sporting director who was a former Red Bull (Seattle Sounders with Chris Henderson in 2016 and 2019).
That means that of the past 23 MLS Cup winners, only the 2005 LA Galaxy and 2015 Portland Timbers had no players, or leading team officials who had previously played for the Red Bulls/MetroStars.
Given that track record, MLS teams across the league might consider adding a former Red Bulls player if they don’t already have won.
Here are the former MetroStars/Red Bulls who have gone on to win MLS Cup titles elsewhere (Eric Brunner, part of the 2008 Columbus Crew, was drafted by, but never played for the Red Bulls. Also, Nick Rimando was briefly part of the New York Red Bulls, but was traded back to Real Salt Lake before ever playing a game for the Red Bulls):
1998: (Chicago Fire) – Manny Lagos, Zack Thornton
1999: D.C. United – A.J. Wood
2000: Kansas City Wizards – Tony Meola, Peter Vermes, Kerry Zavagnin
2001: SJ Earthquakes – Ramiro Corrales, Manny Lagos
2002: LA Galaxy – Alexi Lalas, Ezra Hendrickson
2003: SJ Earthquakes – Ramiro Corrales, Manny Lagos, Rodrigo Faria
2004: D.C. United – Mike Petke, Jaime Moreno
2005: LA Galaxy – NONE
2006: Houston Dynamo – Zach Wells, Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark
2007: Houston Dynamo – Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark
2008: Columbus Crew – Danny O’Rourke, Eddie Gaven
2009: Real Salt Lake – Clint Mathis
2010: Colorado Rapids – Mac Kandji, Marvell Wynne
2011: LA Galaxy – Todd Dunivant, Mike Magee
2012: LA Galaxy – Andrew Boyens, Edson Buddle, Todd Dunivant, Bill Gaudette, Mike Magee
2013: Sporting Kansas City: Peter Vermes (Head Coach)
2014: LA Galaxy – Todd Dunivant
2015: Portland Timbers – NONE
2016: Seattle Sounders – Chris Henderson (Sporting Director)
2017: Toronto FC – Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Jason Hernandez
2018: Atlanta United – Sal Zizzo
2019: Seattle Sounders – Chris Henderson (Sporting Director)
2020: Columbus Crew – Derrick Etienne Jr.