New England Revolution defender Stephen McCarthy changed his number from 26 to 15 ahead of the 2013 MLS season in honor of late Crew midfielder Kirk Urso, who passed away due to a congenital heart defect on August 5, 2012. McCarthy and Urso were teammates for two seasons at the University of North Carolina, helping the Tar Heels to an appearance in the 2010 College Cup after McCarthy missed 2009 due to injury.
McCarthy transferred to UNC from Santa Clara in January 2009 and just as he did when Ben Speas landed at North Carolina in 2011, Urso was the first Tar Heel to make an impression on McCarthy.
"I transferred in and my first memory of [Urso] really stuck. I was a transfer coming in and it was my first day of training -- it wasn't even a real training it was just kind of a kick-around in the gym -- there were no coaches there and we just played small-sided games," McCarthy recalled. "Kirk was just so serious. Every ball, he was going so hard and going after tackles. In my head I was thinking 'This guy is crazy.' I didn't think I liked him very much when I first met him."
He continued, "As my playing went on with him and I got to see who he was off the field as well as on the field, I started to realize how good of a human being he was. He was the most serious player I think I've ever played with because he wanted to win so badly on the field. And then when you got off the field he was just the nicest guy. He was the smartest, the best student on our team. I had some classes with him, he helped me in school as well as on the field. When I transferred, he was always happy to be around and hang out and talk. We kept in touch when I went to New England and he went to Columbus as well. It's tough."
In sports, a player is almost as identifiable by his or her number as they are by name. After all, McCarthy incorporated his number into his Twitter handle: @BigMacca26.
Heading into his third season in MLS, McCarthy will no longer don the number 26, but instead play in his dear friend's memory with the number 15 on his back.
"I was just thinking of Kirk, and I just thought [changing to number 15] would be something nice to do for him and his family as well as for me because I want to keep him in my mind all the time," he explained.
"It's going to be important to me because I'm not just playing for me, but for him as well," he continued. "I want to be playing even harder for that reason."
Number 15 to honor my friend Kirk Urso. He will have my back all season
— Stephen McCarthy (@BigMacca26) January 7, 2013
The Kirk Urso Memorial Fund was established by the Crew Soccer Foundation in late 2012 to provide a platform to develop and support youth heart health research and programming to honor Urso's memory. The Fund is in partnership with the Children’s Heart Foundation, which is dedicated to bringing health, hope and happiness to children impacted by congenital heart defects by funding the most promising research to advance diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Major League Soccer announced the first 2013 home games for each of its 19 clubs on Tuesday. After opening the season in Los Angeles against Chivas USA on March 2, the Crew will welcome the San Jose Earthquakes to Crew Stadium on March 16.
Head Coach Robert Warzycha is looking forward to hosting 2012 MLS Most Valuable Player Chris Wondolowski and the reigning Supporter's Shield winners to Columbus to begin the season.
"I'm sure it's going to be an exciting game because San Jose is a very good team," Warzycha said. "You think about [Steven] Lenhart, Wondolowski and [Alan] Gordon, they are very good forwards who score a lot of goals. It will be a good game for us to measure ourselves against one of the best teams in MLS. I'm sure it will be a very exciting first game [at Crew Stadium]."
MLS will announce more First Kick details and the rest of the Black & Gold's 2013 schedule next month.
Tickets for the clash with San Jose are currently available as part of the Crew's 2012 Holiday Pack.
To keep with the Crew headline of the day, this week's Throwback Thursday is dedicated to Homegrown midfielder Wil Trapp's days at nearby Gahanna Lincoln High School. While also spending time with the Crew Soccer Academy, Trapp racked up numerous accolades during his time at Lincoln.
Trapp helped the Golden Lions to a 41-1-2 record during his time playing for his school, leading Lincoln to the 2009 OHSAA Division I state title. Individually, Trapp was a two-time high school All-American, 2009 Gatorade Player of the Year in Ohio and the 2010 NSCAA National High School Player of the Year.
Yes, the 2012 NCAA champion Indiana Hoosiers were coached by two Columbus Crew legends in Todd Yeagley and Brian Maisonneuve. But the Crew connections on the Hoosier roster don't stop at Yeagley and Maisonneuve.
The team's leading scorer Eriq Zavaleta, playmaker A.J. Corrado started on the 2011 USL Super-20-winning Crew Juniors squad under Brian Bliss. In the Super-20 title match, Zavaleta scored on an assist from Corrado to help the Black & Gold to victory.
"[Winning the National Championionship] is good for those guys, and it's obviously good for us," Bliss said Monday. "It shows that we've identified some good players and hopefully we played a role in their development when they were here with us for two-and-a-half or three months of the year. We put a pretty good squad together in a competitive environment and hopefully that played a part in their development."
In addition to the two Hoosiers that helped Crew Juniors to glory in 2011, Senior captains Luis Soffner and Caleb Konstanski spent a week training with the Crew First Team last summer.
Congratulations to Todd Yeagley, Brian Maisonneuve and the Hoosiers on winning their eighth NCAA championship in school history.
Photo courtesy of IU Athletics.
Despite playing for the Crew's three biggest rivals during his time with the Chicago Fire, Kansas City Wizards and D.C. United, Josh Wolff remains a hero in Columbus. Wolff's counterattack goal into an empty net just after halftime was all the United States needed in its opening match against Mexico in the final round of 2002 World Cup Qualifying at Crew Stadium on February 28, 2001. Earnie Stewart's 87th minute tally cemented the three points to help the U.S. in its campaign to qualify for Japan/South Korea the next year. The victory was the first of three "Dos a Cero" wins over Mexico for the United States during various World Cup Qualifying efforts in Columbus.
Wolff retired last week at the age of 35 to become a fulltime assistant coach with D.C. United. Though he entered many times as an enemy, Wolff will always be remembered as a legend at Crew Stadium.
The Crew Soccer Academy closed out the fall portion of its season at the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy Winter Showcase in Sarasota, Florida over the weekend. The U-16 squad went 1-2-0, beating the New England Revolution and falling to Solar Chelsea FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Silankonet Bayo led the team in scoring with two goals.
The U-18s also finished 1-2-0 at the Showcase. The Black & Gold was victorious over Solar Chelsea FC, but lost to the New England Revolution and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Andrew McKelvey found the net twice to lead the team in scoring. The USSDA season will resume in March 2013.
Nate Kohl and William Bayemi were both picked to participate in the select game, a match where U.S Soccer scouts select players from across the country to participate. In the game, Kohl assisted on Bayemi's goal.
Also in a showcase, the U-16, U-17 and U-18 Crew Juniors Gold girls squads traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina for the CASL Women's Showcase Soccer Series. Coach Glen Tourville sent along this recap of the weekend:
"Each team played three games and each performance allowed for better play and improved team continuity from the previous game. The main goal of participating in the CASL Showcase is to allow our Crew players to showcase their talents in front of the college coaches in attendance. There were coaches present from all NCAA Divisions I, II, III and also coaches representing NAIA Schools. Our players competed in front of twelve to forty different college coaches at any one time depending on field location. All and all it was a very beneficial opportunity for our three teams."
On the youth international stage, Ben Swanson and CSA Wolves striker Ahinga Selemani helped the U.S. U-17 Men's National Team to a 1-1-1 record in the Nike International Friendlies series over the weekend. The Stars and Stripes started the tournament with a 4-4 draw against Brazil before beating Turkey 4-1 and losing to Portugal 4-3 to close out the weekend. Swanson featured in all three matches, while Selemani scored twice in the tourney.
In the Men's NCAA Division III National Championship, Luke Helmuth, Jack Thompson and Logan Thompson helped Messiah when its ninth title in school history over Ryan Sabol and Austin Windsor's Ohio Northern side. Jack Thompson recorded two assists in the 5-1 victory.
On the women's side, Mackenzie Clapper helped Messiah claim a 1-0 victory over Emory in the DIII National Championship game.
The NCAA Division I Tournament held its Elite Eight round over the weekend. Here are how the remaining Crew Youth alumni performed:
No. 10 LOUISVILLE -- Alex Obbey: 3-1 L vs. Maryland
No. 3 GEORGETOWN -- David Witkoff (DNP): 3-1 W vs. San Diego, will face Maryland Friday in NCAA College Cup
Saturday's MLS Cup Final between the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo will feature three former Crew players in LA's Edson Buddle and Pat Noonan, and Houston's Adam Moffat. Here is a look at the trio's time in Black & Gold and how they've fared this season.
Edson Buddle, FWD LA Galaxy - Selected in the third round of the 2001 MLS Superdraft, Buddle scored 42 goals and assisted on 15 more from 2001-2005 for the Black & Gold, including the club's only four-goal game on September 18, 2004 against the NY/NJ MetroStars. Buddle was traded to the MetroStars on March 28, 2006 in exchange for Eddie Gaven and Chris Leitch. After making two appearances for the United States in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Buddle joined second division German side FC Ingolstadt from the Galaxy where he scored nine goals in two seasons. Buddle re-joined the Galaxy before the 2012 season. He tallied three goals and contributed one assist in 19 appearances this season.
Adam Moffat, MID Houston Dynamo - Discovered while playing for the Cleveland City Stars in USL Second Division in 2007, the Crew signed the Scot just before the MLS season ended that season. The next year, Moffat contributed two goals in the Black & Gold's 2008 Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup-winning campaign. In all, Moffat scored five goals and chipped in on assist in Columbus from 2007-2010 before he was selected by Portland Timbers FC in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft. In his first full season with the Dynamo, Moffat scored two goals in the 2012 regular season, including a late equalizer against the Crew on August 19. In five playoff games with Houston this year, Moffat has one goal: a patented "Moffat Rocket" against Sporting Kansas City in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal.
Pat Noonan, FWD LA Galaxy - Acquired from the New England Revolution after spending a half-season in Norway, Noonan joined the Crew for the tail-end of the 2008 season to contribute a goal and two assists in 11 appearances. The St. Louis native was traded in June of 2009 to the Colorado Rapids. Noonan scored one goal in 10 appearances for the Galaxy this season.
Part of what makes soccer -- specifically MLS -- great is the camaraderie among the clubs, players and supporters. Just as the Nordecke shows up week-in and week-out to support the Black & Gold, the Crew shows its admiration for those who support the team through thick and thin. The Columbus Crew would like to extend an invitation to help a supporter during a difficult time.
English Crew supporter and friend of TheCrew.com Daniel Bidmead was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the body's immune system. Fighting the disease head-on, Bidmead has taken it upon himself to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support by having others shave their heads and wax their legs all in the name of charity.
Bidmead's goal is to raise £500 for the charity and he is well on his way to doing so thus far. Support Daniel and his "Bald for Bidmead" campaign by visiting http://www.justgiving.com/baldforbidmead.
With Saturday's MLS Cup Final between the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo looming, it only feels appropriate to revisit the only time Crew Stadium has hosted an MLS Cup Final.
On October 21, 2001, the San Jose Earthquakes outlasted Sigi Schmid's LA Galaxy 2-1 to win MLS Cup behind eventual Cup MVP Dwayne De Rosario's golden goal six minutes into the first overtime period. Landon Donovan also scored for Frank Yallop's Earthquakes, while Luis Hernández tallied for the Galaxy. The victory marked the first of four MLS Cups wins for De Rosario and Donovan. Donovan will be competing for his fifth title on Saturday.
Others who were involved in this historic that will take part in the Final on Saturday include Houston Dynamo Head Coach and then-San Jose assistant Dominic Kinnear (seen hoisting Frank Yallop onto his shoulders in the photo above) and Houston assistant Wade Barrett, who was an Earthquake defender in 2001 (#24 above).
On Saturday, be sure to tune into the Final between the Galaxy and Dynamo at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The United States U-17 Men's National Team kicked off the 2012 Nike International Friendlies Wednesday night in Lakewood Ranch, Florida with an eight goal draw against South American power Brazil. Crew Soccer Academy Wolves product Ahinga Selemani seemingly scored the winning tally in the 81st minute, just 11 minutes after coming on as a second half substitute. However, Brazil got the equalizer three minutes later when Murilo headed Indio's free kick past U.S. goalkeeper Paul Christensen to cement the 4-4 result. CSA alum and Grove City native Ben Swanson went the full 90 minutes in Richie Williams' midfield.
The U.S. U-17s resume play in the series against Turkey on Friday.