By SCOTT KESSLER – USLSoccer.com Contributor
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Two steps forward, one step back.
An audible sigh escaped Dan Metzger’s mouth as he explained how his career has both progressed and regressed multiple times during its short existence. Metzger had impressed during the 2015 USL season with the New York Red Bulls II, but the midfielder was sidelined in August when he had knee surgery. Another year, another disappointment to handle.
“I had a good season [with Red Bulls II] until I got hurt,” Metzger said. “It’s another setback. It’s tough after yet another year of dealing with adversity. I’m not the only guy in the league who gets hurt. It’s something you’ve got to overcome.”
Injuries have not been the only thing keeping Metzger from making it in MLS.
As a high school senior, Metzger chose to forgo signing a Homegrown Player contract with the Red Bulls due to what he saw as short- and long-term congestion in the midfield.
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He instead took a scholarship offer and headed off to college. A successful career at Maryland set Metzger up for projected first-round draft selection in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. The only thing standing in his way was the SuperDraft Combine.
“Being at the combine and only able to play barely a full game before I got hurt at the combine was the first step back, “Metzger said. “Dropping out of the first round, after being projected to go higher – that was on my mind. That’s how it works out sometimes.”
Metzger’s selection in the second round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by D.C. United initially appeared fortuitous for the former Maryland standout, but his time in the nation’s capital was short-lived. D.C. cut Metzger during the preseason.
“I was actually happy to get drafted by D.C. United, because I played at Maryland and knew the area,” Metzger said. “Unfortunately, things didn’t work out there. They were deep in the midfield.”
A return to his childhood club, the New York Red Bulls, via their newly formed USL squad, materialized not long after his departure from United.
“I didn’t burn any bridges at the Red Bulls [after turning down the contract],” Metzger said. “The staff there has always been great, ever since I started playing in the academy. It was a great opportunity to go back there. They welcomed me back with some open arms. From there, and now, it’s working up the ladder. I’m trying to make the most of it at Red Bulls.
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“Before I got drafted, I was unaware there’d be a Red Bulls II,” he added. “The depth in the midfield made it hard for me to get minutes, which is why I turned down a Homegrown contract. I took another opportunity and it didn’t work out. The fact that the Red Bulls have a USL team made everything work out at the end of the day. “
In spite of multiple hindrances to his professional development, and the need to move up the U.S. Soccer divisional pyramid, Metzger finally sees a positive path ahead of himself.“Obviously not being on the first team is not what I want, but I’m glad to be around all of the coaching staff, playing all of the games and getting all of the minutes,” Metzger said. “Getting to train with the first team as well, it’s good to be around all of the first-team guys. They do a really good job of translating the way they want the first team to play to the USL team. It made my transition from my departure from D.C. easier. Hopefully I can come back stronger this year [post-injury] and push forward towards the first team.”