Tonight at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the NASL's Carolina RailHawks are set to play a special exhibition match, serving as a fundraiser for the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund.
Urso, who played collegiately at UNC and captained the Tar Heels to the 2011 NCAA Championship, was honored and remembered at the Crew's home match on August 9 against Toronto FC.
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images
Goalkeeper Steve Clark has appeared in all 23 matches for the Crew in 2014. His most recent performance included a five-save effort. In total, Clark now has had one six-save performance and five matches with five saves thus far in 2014. Clark is six ap- pearances shy of moving into a four-way tie for fifth place on the Crew’s single-season games played list, currently occupied by William Hesmer (29 - 2008), Brad Friedel (29 - 1997) and Jon Busch (29 - 2004).
Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan enter Columbus this weekend as the two active international team players with the most goals, following the retirement of Germany’s Miroslav Klose. Keane has 62 goals for Ireland while Donovan has scored 57 goals for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Federico Higuain now has 25 goals and 21 assists in 62 appearances for the Crew dating back to August 19, 2012. He set a career-high in goals last year with 11 in 29 appearances. The Argentine has found the back of the net nine times in 2014 with 11 regular-season matches remaining, including Saturday.
In case you missed it last weekend during Kirk Urso Memorial Night, in partnership with The Children’s Heart Foundation, the Crew Soccer Foundation announced it has awarded a $50,000 grant from the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund to Dr. Christo- pher Breuer and Dr. Toshiharu Shinoka of Nationwide Children’s Hospital for their research on the treatment of cardiac heart defects in youth. The grant was the largest in the Foundation’s history and Drs. Breuer and Shinoka were recognized during halftime of the Crew match against Toronto FC held on Kirk Urso Memorial Night at Crew Stadium. Drs. Breuer and Shinoka’s tissue engineering research holds incredible potential for repairing birth defects, allowing a child’s own cells to be used to grow new tissue or organs for repair.
Crew midfielders Kevan George and Tony Tchani volunteered at Faith Mission Community Kitchen, near Crew Stadium last week. The players assisted in serving lunch, as well as preparing future meals for local families in need.
Crew Brand Ambassador Frankie Hejduk's career intersected with Landon Donovan many times, from Bayer Leverkusen to the 2002 FIFA World Cup to Hejduk's late-career tenure with the LA Galaxy. The two also played together in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where Hejduk recalls one of his favorite Donovan stories.
"[Donovan] was always staying after," said Hejduk. "He was always hitting balls after training. Guys were always on the bus and he was always the last to come on. I was going, 'Man, who is this guy? Does he think he's a superstar?' So we started joking, 'Hey, Superstar! Come on, get on the bus!' It became a thing that Olympics where it was something that I had already foreseen that ended up happening, because he did become a superstar. That name stuck with him forever.
"At the beginning, he was like, 'No, you have to stop calling me that,' but it stuck and everyone would laugh about it. It became just a funny thing in that tournament, and we had a great tournament ... In that tournament, he did what he always does. He came in and scored goals, and you saw a glimpse of him being a superstar in that tournament. That was the first time that I saw a glimpse of him as a player, and I went, 'Wow, this kid's going to be something special.' It turns out that he did. I still to this day call him 'Superstar,' and I know that Gregg [Berhalter] calls him 'Superstar' too. It's stuck with him for all these years and he's deserved that name."
Over this week, as the Black & Gold prepare to face Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy, TheCrew.com has recapped the greatest Donovan moments in Columbus. Michael Parkhurst has shared several of those moments with the LA Galaxy attacker.
In the Crew Captain's rookie MLS season, he was named to the 2005 MLS All-Star Game in Columbus alongside Donovan. Additionally, in what ended up being Donovan's final appearance in a competitive match against Mexico in what was a highly successful United States National Team career, Parkhurst was on the pitch with Landon when he scored at Crew Stadium in the 78th minute of the 2013 "Dos a Cero" match.
Given their shared connections to the League and U.S. Soccer, it's understandable that Parkhurst said that he was sad to see Donovan retire.
"I'm sad to see him go. From a competitive standpoint I still think he's one of the best players in the League. Obviously for what he's done for U.S. Soccer and MLS, nobody's done anything more. He's an icon and he'll be missed."
Hector Jimenez has had a firsthand look at Landon Donovan's career, as the Crew midfielder played with Donovan from 2011-2013 with the LA Galaxy. Not only that, but Jimenez, a Huntington Park, California native, was a fan of the Galaxy growing up. When he got to LA as a rookie in 2011, Jimenez said that it was an honor to play alongside Donovan.
"It was special just to be around him ... Being in the stands and being able to see him play and then being able to win two MLS Cups with him, like I said, it was something really special that I'll cherish forever."
Jimenez added that his favorite Donovan memory also involved a personal connection to the MLS and United States National Team great.
"My first assist was to one of his goals, so I think I'll remember that one forever for sure."
Ahead of his final trip to Columbus, Landon Donovan took the time to reflect on his favorite memories from his matches here, which included multiple appearances for the United States National Team, the 2001 MLS Cup Final and the 2005 MLS All-Star Game.
When push came to shove, however, Donovan went with two specific "Dos a Cero" memories as his favorites.
"My two favorites [memories] are my first [World Cup Qualifier vs. Mexico], which I didn't actually play in the game, but being on the bench and watching Josh Wolff [and Earnie Stewart] score," said Donovan. "Winning 2-0 for the first time there and just realizing what a special atmosphere it was. Some of us had played in big games around the world and experienced that, but we'd never experienced that at home. So to have that was really incredible. Then my last experience [at Crew Stadium], playing Mexico and winning 2-0, was special. To score a goal there in what ended being my last game against Mexico was really special."
What do you think, Crew fans? Do you agree with Donovan? Vote on your favorite memory of Landon's career at Crew Stadium and let your voice be heard.
Fans in Columbus have been treated to many memorable Landon Donovan moments in this city over the years. With the American soccer legend set to retire following the season, Saturday's match figures to be the final time Donovan will ever appear on the Crew Stadium pitch. His coach, Bruce Arena, reflected on that from Los Angeles:
"Landon's had a lot of good moments in Columbus," said Arena, who also has ties to the Crew through his coaching career alongside Gregg Berhalter. "Obviously with the National Team, the number of victories, especially over Mexico … I think he won an MLS Cup in Columbus as well.
"Obviously there are a lot of big moments with the National Team and with his club teams in Columbus. It'll be sad to see it as the last time around on Saturday, but having said that, I think he's had nothing but great experiences there."