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Major League Soccer has unveiled its 25 Greatest, a definitive list of the most decorated and important players in the league's 25-year history, in the run-up to this year's MLS Cup match on Saturday.
The list was compiled by a panel of 200 MLS alumni and experts, with an initial 137 nominees eventually whittled down to just 25 of the players who made the biggest impact on the league during its first quarter-century.
Included in the selection are MLS Cup winners, MVPs, Golden Boot winners and All-Stars; as well as players deemed to have made 'extraordinary contributions' both on and off the field.
The 25 Greatest features plenty of big names and top players, although many of the global stars who appeared in the league during their careers do not make the list.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's frankly crazy haul of 52 goals in 56 MLS appearances during his 18-month spell at LA Galaxy is not enough to get him on the list. Thierry Henry -- a Premier League great with Arsenal, Champions League winner with Barcelona and world champion with France -- is not included despite spending four years with New York Red Bulls. Premier League greats Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, World Cup winners David Villa and Andrea Pirlo and even Kaka, winner of the Ballon d'Or in 2007, also fail to make the cut.
All in all, nine different nationalities are represented, as well as 20 different MLS clubs -- with six spots taken by former LA Galaxy players -- and six members of the U.S.'s National Soccer Hall of Fame.
The 25 Greatest are also deliberately presented in unranked format as MLS are keen to stress that all the players involved are equally worthy of their places in the pantheon.
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DC United 1996-2000; San Jose Earthquakes 2001-04; MetroStars 2005
A veteran of 134 caps for the USMNT, stoic centre-back Agoos was included in the MLS Best XI on three occasions as well as being a member of the MLS All-Time Best XI in 2005. Having represented the All-Stars on no less than nine occasions, 'Goose' was also named MLS Defender of the Year in 2001. He is a five-time winner of the MLS Cup -- an exceptional career tally bettered by only one other player, who also features among The 25 Greatest.
Miami Fusion 2000-01; Colorado Rapids 2002-07; Real Salt Lake 2007-present
The only player in history to play 20 seasons in MLS, Beckerman has also made more league appearances (498 and counting) than any outfield player in history. The tenacious midfielder is also a one-time winner of MLS Cup and the Supporters' Shield, as well as being a nine-time MLS All-Star selection.
LA Galaxy: 2007-12
Arguably the most influential transfer in MLS history, Beckham's grand unveiling at Galaxy helped to shape the future trajectory of the entire league like no other before or since. The former England captain won the MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield twice in six seasons and was a member of the Best XI in 2011. Not content with his contributions as a midfielder earning him a statue on Legend's Plaza, he's since turned owner and president with his involvement with one of MLS's newest franchises, Inter Miami.
Chicago Fire 2000-03; Chivas USA 2013-14
A reliable presence in the back four for club and country, Bocanegra was voted MLS Defender of the Year twice in a row, in 2002 and 2003, living up to the early promise that saw him named Rookie of the Year in 2000.
Dwayne De Rosario
San Jose Earthquakes 2001-05; Houston Dynamo 2006-08; Toronto FC 2009-11, 2014; New York Red Bulls 2011; DC United 2011-13
An attacking midfielder and set-piece specialist, De Rosario scored the vital extra-time golden goal that secured the Quakes the MLS Cup in 2001, earning him Man of the Match honours. A six-time member of the MLS Best XI, winner of the MLS Most Valuable Player award in 2011 and winner of the 2011 MLS Golden Boot, De Rosario scored 104 goals during his MLS career, which puts him ninth on the all-time list.
New England Revolution 2004-06; Seattle Sounders FC 2013-18
Any player who inspires a fan to get a tattoo of their image has to be considered a great. One of the most gifted players to ever emerge from MLS, Dempsey won the MLS Cup, the Supporters' Shield and the US Open Cup after being named Rookie of the Year in 2004. A regular presence in the All-Star team, the skillful forward also weighed in with 72 goals and 42 assists during his stints in the U.S. before and after his impressive Premier League career at Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur.
San Jose Earthquakes 2001-04; LA Galaxy 2005-14, 2016
Donovan has won the MLS Cup six times, more than anybody else in the history of the league. He's second on the all-time goals list with 145, and top in assists with 136. The LA Galaxy legend has also amassed more postseason goals (25) and assists (15) than any other player, which goes some way to accounting for his seven MLS Best XI inclusions (the most ever), his 2009 MVP award, his 2008 Golden Boot, his 14 All-Star appearances, and his well-earned place in the MLS All-Time Best XI.
DC United 1996-2003
One of the brightest stars in MLS's early years, Etcheverry quickly established himself as an icon at DC, pulling strings from the heart of their midfield. The big-haired Bolivia international is a four-time member of the MLS Best XI and was named the MLS Most Valuable Player in 1998 before also earning a place in the MLS All-Time Best XI as voted in 2005.
LA Galaxy 1996-2000; Colorado Rapids 2001-03; Columbus Crew 2004-05
Fraser was twice named the MLS Defender of the Year (1999 and 2004) as well as finding his way into the MLS Best XI team on five occasions. The former Galaxy and Rapids man was also twice winner of the Supporters' Shield and winner of the CONCACAF Champions Cup while representing the MLS All-Stars five times.
Toronto FC 2015-18
The diminutive Italian maestro hit the ground running on his arrival in MLS in 2015, delighting Toronto fans with his touch, vision, and creative abilities. The former Juventus player is a three-time member of the MLS Best XI and winner of the MLS Most Valuable Player award circa 2015 (the same year he was named Newcomer of the Year), scoring 68 goals and laying on 52 assists in the space of just 114 league games.
LA Galaxy 1997-2006; Kansas City Wizards 2007-09; FC Dallas 2010-12; New York Red Bulls 2013
One of the greatest goalkeepers in MLS history, Hartman's looming presence helped deliver trophies, winning two MLS Cups and three Supporters' Shields, as well as the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions Cup. Hartman was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and found himself in the MLS Best XI in 1999. His stats are equally impressive, with the former shot-stopper ranking second in terms of all-time goalkeeper wins (180) and total clean sheets (112) in 416 appearances.
LA Galaxy 1996-07
A quick and tricky winger, Jones mustered a total of 91 assists during his MLS career, which puts him ninth on the all-time list. As well as winning 164 caps for the United States, Jones was a member of the 1998 MLS Best XI, winning two MLS Cups, two Supporters' Shields, two U.S. Open Cups and the CONCACAF Champions Cup with Galaxy.
LA Galaxy 2011-16
Quite simply one of the most prolific strikers to ever play in MLS, Keane scored 83 league goals for Galaxy in just 125 games -- putting him 14th on the all-time list. The Republic of Ireland international played a vital part in helping Galaxy to MLS Cup wins in 2011, 2012 and 2014, when he was voted league and MLS Cup MVP.
Columbus Crew 2004-13; Seattle Sounders FC 2014-19
Marshall by name, marshall by nature. The centre-back was voted MLS Defender of the Year in 2008, 2009, and 2014 -- more than anyone else in league history. He was also included in the MLS Best XI four times over the course of his 409 career league appearances, winning two MLS Cups, three Supporters' Shields, and one U.S. Open Cup along the way.
Atlanta United 2017-present
Martinez's MLS career is still young, but the hotshot Atlanta striker already has 77 goals in 84 games to his name over the course of his first four seasons. Lethal in the penalty area, the Venezuelan can boast two of the seven highest-scoring single seasons in MLS history, including a then-record 31 goals in 2018. Martinez was voted MLS MVP that same year, and has also won the MLS Cup, the US Open Cup and the Campeones Cup.
MetroStars/New York Red Bulls 1996-98, 2005-06; Kansas City Wizards 1999-2004
One of the first goalkeepers to emerge from MLS, Meola remains the only shot-stopper to have been named league MVP (in 2000, the same year he was also named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year). Another stalwart to win a century of caps for the USMNT, Meola is also an MLS Cup MVP and a proud member of the All-Time Best XI as voted in 2005.
DC United 1996-2002, 2004-10; MetroStars 2003
Moreno has won just about all there is to win -- four MLS Cups and Supporters' Shields, two U.S. Open Cups and a CONCACAF Champions' Cup. The Bolivian attacker is the fourth-highest goal scorer in MLS history, having amassed a grand total of 133 goals as well as 102 assists. As such, he is one of only two players in MLS history to have more than 100 goals and 100 assists to his name.
DC United 1996-2002; MetroStars 2003-04; Real Salt Lake 2005-07
Another legendary name from the early days of the league, Pope won the MLS Cup three times, including in 1996 when he scored the game-winning golden goal to secure the cup for D.C. in the first-ever inaugural championship game. Four-time member of MLS Best XI and member of the MLS All-Time Best XI (2005), Pope was also named MLS Defender of the Year in 1997.
Predrag 'Preki' Radosavljevic
Kansas City Wizards 1996-2000, 2002-05; Miami Fusion 2001
'Preki' remains the only player ever to win two MLS MVP awards (1997 and 2003) and the first to top the MLS scoring charts twice. The Serbia-born U.S. international scored 79 goals overall (putting him 20th on the all-time list) and provided 112 assists (fifth most) while winning one MLS Cup, two Supporters' Shields, and one U.S. Open Cup with the Wizards.
Tampa Bay Mutiny 1996-2001; New England Revolution 2002-10
Ralston the assist machine recorded a huge total of 135 league assists in 378 appearances during his MLS career, which puts him second on the all-time list, also scoring 76 goals. Having been branded the league's first ever Rookie of the Year in 1996, he went on to be named to the MLS Best XI on three occasions and also won the Supporters' Shield and U.S. Open Cup.
Miami Fusion 2000-01; DC United 2002-06; Real Salt Lake 2007-19
Rimando is a constant in MLS, with the seasoned goalkeeper the all-time leader in league appearances (514), goalkeeper wins (223), clean sheets (154) and successful saves (1,701). Rimando has also saved more spot kicks (27) than any other goalkeeper in MLS history, famously including two penalties at the end of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals while with D.C. United. He is also a two-time winner of the MLS Cup (MLS Cup MVP in 2009) and a two-time Supporters' Shield winner.
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Tampa Bay Mutiny 1996-97, 1999-2001; Miami Fusion 1998-99; Colorado Rapids 2001-02
One of the most recognisable players of his generation, Valderrama even looked good in one of the worst kits ever worn on a soccer field. The Colombian midfielder chalked up 114 assists during his time in MLS, including a single-season record of 26 back in 2000. Valderrama was named MLS Most Valuable Player in the league's inaugural season after impressing with Tampa Bay, ultimately landing himself a berth in the MLS All-Time Best XI almost a decade later.
Portland Timbers 2013- present
With 88 assists and counting, Valeri is 10th on the all-time list of MLS creators and, thanks to his tally of 84 goals, the Argentine attacking midfielder is also one of only three players in history to reach both 80 goals and 80 assists during their careers. The Timbers fan favourite has been named in the MLS Best XI on three occasions while also taking the MLS Most Valuable Player honours in 2017. Add to that an MLS Cup in 2015 (after which he claimed the MLS Cup MVP award) and it's abundantly clear why Valeri is already rated among the best.
San Jose Earthquakes 2005, 2009-present; Houston Dynamo 2006-09
Having buried 166 goals in 381 games, Wondolowski is clear at the summit of the MLS goal-scoring charts as the league's all-time leading marksman. As if that wasn't enough to cement his credentials, the Quakes striker was named MVP in 2012, the season in which he equaled the then-record for goals scored in a single season (27). The two-time MLS Cup champion has also twice won the MLS Golden Boot (2010 and 2012) while being named in the MLS Best XI on three occasions. And, when he's not playing, he's watching his team play with fans in the crowd!
New York Red Bulls 2013-19; LAFC 2020-present
Wright-Phillips is also a two-time Golden Boot winner, having also matched the then all-time single-season scoring record (27 goals) for the Red Bulls back in 2014. The former Manchester City and Southampton striker has scored 116 goals since making the move to MLS, which puts him sixth on the league's all-time list. Wright-Phillips briefly played alongside older brother Shaun at Red Bulls before leaving last year to join LAFC.© Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports Former New York defender Fidel Escobar remains inactive with his new club in Spain
Welcome to the Red Bulls Round-Up presented by Once a Metro.
Halloween is here, folks! Let’s celebrate by satisfying our craving like we indulge in so many delicious candies and sweets. This post contains plenty of treats for eager readers, those fans seeking to slake their hunger for Red Bulls stories and updates on former players and coaches. Does it contain any seasonal tricks, cruel pranks, or cockamamie ruses? It might, so please continue reading at your own risk and beware of clicking on a spooky link. I’m just kidding. That was the trick.
Here’s this week’s top story.
What’s the first thing one does after getting hired? If you’re new Red Bulls manager Gerhard Struber and his assistant Bernd Eibler, you head to Brazil. According to an Instagram post by the latter, the pair have been at Red Bull Bragantino, observing training. The sister club was added to the Austrian company’s football profile in 2019 and secured promotion to the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A soon after.
While some may question why the new coaches are able to head to South America but not the United States, immigration and work permits will always be the answer. As stated in the initial press release, Struber will “assume duties pending receipt of his U.S. work visa.” In a recent interview, Eibler echoed that his first day at the club “depends on when [he] gets a visa.”
Observing the training of a sister club inspires thoughts of loans and transfers involving fancy young talent, particularly those highly sought after Brazilian prospects. The Red Bulls have an interesting history with signings from Salzburg, Leipzig, and RB Brasil (which is a separate entity from Bragantino), but new management could lead to a different reality of friendlier and advantageous movement. On the other hand, maybe Struber and Eibler are merely there to observe the club and kill some time before being allowed to move to the United States. For now, I grant you permission to let your imagination run wild as you scan Bragantino’s roster.
Regardless if the venture is sport, art, or something in between, Red Bull is all about innovation. While some organizations merely enter into the world of eSports with one player, New York has two. Mike LaBelle serves as a general media personality, and George Adamou “is focused on his professional play in tournaments.”
The investment by a sports team in a wholly different vertical, likely a source of confusion to some, has yielded positive gains. According to senior director of content and communications Jayne Bussman-Wise, the club’s ownership “provided a multitude of resources” to pursue this new and expanding field. The professional gamers’ work and an appearance by superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins has been linked to a growth in merchandise sales.
It’s been said that the FIFA video game series is the gateway to the sport for many young Americans. The Red Bulls smartly entered this explosive growth industry, not by dipping a toe into the water and waiting for signs of guaranteed success, but with full intent. Some are surely wondering whether this will lead to any direct benefit on the field. That’s a question with a complicated answer that you’ll have to figure out for yourself.
Here’s a story that was submitted to the Round-Up by Juan of Northern California.
Former New York Red Bulls Head of International Relations and Scouting Ralf Rangnick sat down for an interview with Spanish newspaper El País. He discussed his philosophy on tactics, scouting tendencies, and current employment outlook. Major League Soccer and his brief spell of direct involvement overseeing the club were not mentioned, but his influence over the past six years is emanating off the page. It’s a must-read for Red Bulls fans, particularly with Gerhard Struber, a disciple and favored son, now in charge and ready to double down on the vaunted system.
The 62-year-old former Leipzig and Hoffenheim architect broke down his project into easy steps: define a clear style of play, sign young players, and hire the best people. Rangnick notes that sometimes avoiding the wrong talent is more important than acquiring the right personnel. Every club strives to achieve this, but Red Bull has streamlined the process, perhaps due to an intense focus on scouting and youth development.
Despite previous reports, Rangnick insists that he is “not negotiating with Roma” and “can’t imagine going there right now.” He desires to work at a “traditional club” in Germany or England. It’s been over a year since leaving the manager and sporting director roles at RB Leipzig, which is a normal layoff in the soccer world. Maybe the right job won’t come along, but it would be a shame for such an influential figure to not transform another club.
A former Red Bulls Academy and New York Red Bulls II player is beginning his professional career in Italy. Salvatore Esposito signed with U.S. Fiorenzuola 1922 of the Italian Serie D. The 19-year-old midfielder made his debut in a scoreless draw against Marignanese, playing 30 minutes as a substitute.
Esposito joined the Red Bulls Academy in 2018 after spending time in the youth ranks at Manhattan Kickers, Genoa, and Napoli. In 2019, he made four appearances for Red Bulls II in the USL. Now he’s back in Italy, attempting to work his way up the professional ladder.
I wish you the best of luck, Sal. We will watch your career with great interest.
In September, Sports Business Journal named Red Bulls general counsel Kari Cohen to its annual list of “Game Changers” recognizing “the top women in the sports business.” The publication asked the nominees to reveal the inspiration for their leadership styles. Cohen shared that her role model is none other than general manager Marc de Grandpre.
“Marc has the most commendable quality of treating everyone with utmost respect,” she told SBJ. “When he’s speaking with you… you have his undivided attention. He also has an incredible tendency for not just saying, but actually showing how deeply he believes in each of his employees and providing them with the tools necessary to set them up for success.”
Formerly the Red Bulls’ managing director from 2006 through 2008, de Grandpre returned to the club in 2014, replacing Jérôme de Bontin. In 2016, he was named Doug Hamilton Executive of the Year. It appears his leadership style inspires quite the level of loyalty among employees, perhaps built over staff lunches at Tops Diner.
It didn’t take long for Doncaster Rovers loanee Josh Sims to make an impact. In his first match at the club, the 23-year-old winger assisted on the match’s only goal in the 79th minute. He received the ball in acres of free space, charged into the box unimpeded, and hit a centering pass to Reece James, who converted with quite the flourishing finish.
Sims ➡️ James ➡️ Goal
The extended highlights are on iFollow Rovers. #DRFChttps://t.co/ICiAGbYNfzpic.twitter.com/QL3l8ST6iH— Doncaster Rovers FC (@drfc_official) October 18, 2020
The former Red Bull found the experience “enjoyable” and “hopes to build on” the assist. “I’ve grown up being a winger and enjoy what the position brings,” he told Doncaster’s official website. “It’s a good group of boys and competition is strong, that’s a good thing because it keeps you hungry to keep performing.”
Send out the appropriate color of smoke, a new manager has been hired. Barnsley FC have appointed Valérien Ismaël to lead the club. The 45-year-old Frenchman had a long playing career including stops at Strasbourg, Lens, Werder Bremen, and Bayern Munich. He was recently in charge of LASK, the second consecutive manager to move from Austria to Oakwell Stadium.
Ismaël replaces Gerhard Struber who is, of course, the current head coach at New York Red Bulls. Barnsley is mired in yet another relegation fight, with escape looking less likely this season. It’s a difficult state for any club, but sometimes the drop to a lower league can lead to an even stronger return. Soccer, like life, is a constant series of peaks and valleys.
The odyssey of one Ismar Tandir continues. The former Red Bulls academy standout joined MFK Zemplín Michalovce of the Slovak Super Liga. He was previously with Sigma Olomouc, a situation that ended under slightly negative circumstances, with his departure described as “liberation for both” player and club.
“The transfer was not easy at all,” Tandir’s representative told SPORT.SK. “All this is in fact dealt with on the fly and on the last day of the window. The condition was that the contract in Olomouc would be canceled and then all the necessary requirements would be resolved for the transfer to take place formally as it should. Ismar finally signed a contract with Michalovce until the end of the current year, and if both parties are satisfied, it will be possible to extend the cooperation.”
The Žltomodrí are currently in last place in the league table, with eight points from ten matches. At 25 years old, Tandir is something of a veteran in the sport, having carved out a successful career that’s stretched across Europe. Now at his 11th club since 2013, perhaps he will be able to secure some stability and make a push for a senior call-up to the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team.
Sometimes the journey takes a little bit of time to get started. There was a relative amount of fanfare and flowery language when Fidel Escobar joined Spanish second division side AD Alcorcón, but little has come to pass following an initial minor muscle issue. The Panamanian international has yet to appear in a match, a curious situation for one who is so talented. According to El Siglo, the defender “traveled to Panama to resolve some personal issues.”
However, Alcorcón has bigger issues to handle. The club had a recent match suspended after “four cases of positive COVID-19 were detected between players and personnel.” After one win in the first five fixtures, The Potters are currently in the Segunda División’s four-team relegation zone. Perhaps it might be time for the Madrid-based club to seek the help of a defender with World Cup experience currently restricted to the bench, but that’s just a suggestion, He’s on a three-year contract, so maybe the club should consider using him.
What’s the point in being a sporting director if you’re not going to make a lot of moves? Peguy Luyindula is living by that mantra, being very active in that role for Ligue 1 club Dijon FCO. “I would like the transfer window to be calm,” he said in June. “That would mean we have everything we need.” The former Red Bull has been very busy, acquiring 12 players and showing nine the door.
Will that be enough to change the current trajectory at Dijon? Les hiboux (the owls) are winless this season, with two points from seven matches. Luyindula certainly selected a challenging situation for his front office job, but one’s first position is rarely directly at the top of a particular field.
Instead of relying on hope and sticking to the plan, Luyindula is opting for radical change and attempting to force a move up the table. If the players gel, the former French international will be lauded as a genius. If they don’t, he’ll likely be looking for new employment, albeit with some experience under his belt.
Not every academy player ends up making it to the first team. Many join other clubs, including Spanish side CD Leganés. That’s the reported location of two former Red Bulls youth prospects, Salvador Pliego and Amadeo Chapru-Tate. They’ll be suiting up for the Leganes U-23s in Group 7B of the Tercera División.
Chapru-Tate played for the Red Bulls Academy before moving to Barca Residency. He was featured in a video produced by Men in Blazers ahead of the 2017 edition of the Hudson River Derby. After starting his youth career in East Hanover, Pliego moved to UNAM Pumas, turning down interest from Chivas, Tigres, Pachuca, and Club América. However, while on trial in Europe, he was linked to Leganés by “a colleague with whom he played at Red Bulls.”
There is no direct or correct route to professional soccer. Success is not a straight line. Hopefully both players enjoy their time living and working in Spain, an experience many never get to enjoy.
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Obviously, Jorge Simão didn’t get the Red Bulls job, despite a source listing the Portuguese manager as a candidate. Instead of sitting on the sideline of life, he’s been hired by Royal Excel Mouscron of the Belgian First Division A. The 44-year-old replaces Fernando Da Cruz, who was dismissed after a bleak start to the season.
Simão was recently the manager of Saudi club Al-Fayha FC, a tenure that ended in August with his departure right before relegation. Mouscron finds itself in a similar fight, at the bottom of the table with three points from nine matches. However, Les Hurlus are a mere three points away from escaping the drop, so the job is not impossible but merely difficult.
One former Red Bull player is continuing his managerial career. After eight months with Newcastle Jets, Carl Robinson was announced as the new head coach of fellow A-League club Western Sydney Wanderers. The Welshman referred to the job as “an opportunity too good to turn down” with a “big club… that has set the foundations to be very successful.”
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Western Sydney finished last season in ninth place in the 11-team league, with 33 points from 26 matches. The club was only recently created in 2012, but enjoyed a solid run of form on the banks of the Parramatta River. WSW has claimed one domestic title and three times finished as runners-up in the Grand Finals (playoffs). The club’s crowning achievement was capturing the AFC Champions League in 2014, a stunning feat for a recently formed entity.
Perhaps Robinson is the man to lead the club back to its former glory. The 44-year-old closed out his playing career with the Red Bulls, making 13 appearances in 2010 and 2011. He then joined the Vancouver Whitecaps as an assistant before being named manager prior to the 2014 season. His tenure lasted until his departure in September of 2018 due to “internal reasons” that he chooses not to share.
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Prior to entering the coaching field, Robinson sought the advice of several key figures in his professional life, including former Red Bulls manager Hans Backe. The message was a simple, “You’re ready.” It appears he’s on the right path, always employed in a competitive field and credited as the developer of Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies.
Here’s a joke that was submitted by Harriet of Nutley.
“I bet his next signing in Australia will be a man from Brussels who is six-foot-four and full of muscles.”
Thank you, Harriet. You’re the rare type who can slide a pop culture reference into any situation.
Do you have a story you’d like to submit to the Weekly News Bulletin? Email us at [email protected] or send a DM to @Once_A_Metro on Twitter.