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Former St. John’s star signs with Columbus

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Less than a month after being released by the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, former St. John’s standout Jeff Matteo is back in Major League Soccer and back with the Columbus Crew.

The midfielder was traded in March from the Crew, along with defender Chris Leitch, to the MetroStars for the rights to midfielder Ross Paule.

“Hopefully, it works out,” Matteo said. “I just want to start playing and see what happens. It’s good to be back on a team.”

Matteo, who signed a developmental contract with the Crew, rejoined Columbus for the team’s game at D.C. United June 14, where Crew defender Mike Clark joked about Matteo’s brief stint with the MetroStars.

“We sent him there to spy on (MetroStars coach) Bob Bradley, to see what he's up to,” Clark told the Columbus Dispatch.

Matteo, who hails from the Poughkeepsie suburb of Stormville, never cracked the MetroStars lineup and its already crowded midfield, which includes Honduran international Amado Guevara, Ricardo Clark, Richie Williams, Mark Lisi and Joey DiGiamarino.

He was released, along with midfielder Jeff Moore, to make room for a pair of players on loan from Boca Juniors — midfielder Jose Galvan and defender Juan Forchetti.

While his agent finalized Matteo’s return to Columbus, the 5-foot-5 crafty midfielder returned to his alma mater to play a pair of games with the New York Freedoms of the United Soccer League’s Pro-Select League.

A combination of injuries and U.S. national team call-ups created some room in the Crew midfield, allowing Matteo, whose only MLS action to date is 14 minutes against Kansas City last year, to return to Columbus.

“It’s nice to bring in a player, especially with our numbers what they are now, who has some experience at this level,” Columbus coach Greg Andrulis told the Columbus Dispatch.

At St. John’s, Matteo was a two-time first-team All-Big East selection and was named Big East Midfielder of the Year in 2001.

In four years, Matteo played in 88 games, scoring 55 points on 17 goals and 21 assists. He scored the lone goal for St. John’s in a 2-1 double overtime loss to Indiana in the 2001 NCAA semifinals.

“He said he was happy to have me back, and he’s looking at me towards the future,” Matteo said of his conversation with Andrulis. “But at least he’s looking. He’s just trying to get me some experience.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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