In just four years of existence, the Rough Riders had established themselves as one of the best lower division clubs in the country. They reached the semi-finals of the US Interregional Soccer League in 1994 and won the title in 1995 behind future internationals Tony Meola, Giovanni Savarese and Chris Armas.
The MetroStars reached the MLS playoffs in 1996 but struggled to replicate the feat with their third manager in two seasons – Carlos Alberto Parreira, who guided Brazil to the 1994 World Cup title in the States -United.
On paper, the game seemed like a mismatch. The Metros had nine internationals in Tab Ramos, Brian Bliss, Mike Sorber and Meola (USA), Roberto Donadoni (Italy), Branco (Brazil), Antony de Avila (Colombia), Shaun Bartlett (South Africa) and Savarese ( Venezuela).
Tough day for MLS subways
“We were the devil that day, if you will,” laughed Meola, the 100-time capped American keeper. “We were the team that came in maybe as the highest rated team or the one that got the most attention.
“I remember there was a lot of hype,” Meola added. “There were a lot of guys there. [with the Rough Riders] who thought or imagined they should be with our team.”
The Riders were riding high that summer.
In a July 30 exhibition game aptly named “The Grapple For the Apple” against the Hofstra University MetroStars to promote the sport, they won 2-1 in front of a nearly full crowd of 11,658. . Using their regulars, the Rough Riders were bolstered by Saul Martinez and Flavio Ferri, who found the net against goalkeeper Zach Thornton. Bartlett counted late for the losing MetroStars, who used mostly reserve players.