Sirk’s Notebook: Crew 3, Revs 2

Crew finished off their dramatic 3-2 stoppage time victory over the Revs

William Hesmer

Photo Credit: 
Jamie Sabau (Getty Images)

Ten minutes after the Crew finished off their dramatic 3-2 stoppage time victory over the undermanned New England Revolution, William Hesmer clack-clack-clacked his way to the Crew’s locker room. Over the sound of his cleats hitting the concrete in the tunnel, he turned to me and said, “We made you sweat that one out, didn’t we?”

Sure did! So in honor of the Crew waiting until the last possible moment to finish off the Revs, I have decided to wait until the last possible moment to finish off the Notebook. This delay was, like, totally symbolic and stuff. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

On to the usual collection of gibberish…

NOT IN THE SCRIPT

The Revs came to Columbus without stars Taylor Twellman and Shalrie Joseph. They came to Columbus without enough healthy bodies to fill out their bench. Or with enough healthy bodies to play 11 players in their natural positions. And they were fresh off of a 4-0 midweek thumping. At home, no less.

Crew fans could be forgiven for resembling a drooling, lip-licking Wile E. Coyote, knife and fork in hand, eager for the succulent feast of goals that was sure to come. But as every soccer fan knows, the game often has its own ideas. In the 29th minute, Crew fans got an ACME anvil dropped on their heads.

Revolution midfielder Zak Boggs, in his first MLS start, ripped a shot toward the Crew’s goal. Crew defender Eric Brunner got a foot on the shot outside the 18 yard box, giving it some topspin. Hesmer appeared to have the shot covered, but the dipping ball ducked under his arms and squirted into the net. It may not have been on the level of the howlers found on Chris Seitz’s 2010 blooper reel, but it was a shot Hesmer knows he should stop 100 times out of 100.

“I don’t know,” Hesmer said while grasping for an explanation. “I didn’t look good in training either. All I can say is that it sucks to put your team down in a hole. It’s at times like this that you have to remind yourself that it’s a team game and be happy that we got the three points.”

The soft goal could have totally deflated the Crew, but as has often been the case over the past three years, the deficit served to rally the troops.  

“After that goal, our response was great,” said Hesmer. “Nobody put their head down and nobody pointed the finger. It meant a lot to me that guys came over and said, ‘Don’t worry about it; we’ll get it back for you.’ Then we started pressing the issue.”

EQUALIZIN’ EDDIE

Since the spirit of gift giving was in the air, New England defender Cory Gibbs decided to reciprocate just two minutes after Boggs had given the Revs their unexpected lead. Gibbs didn’t do so hot with a Robbie Rogers cross. He headed the ball down into his own box and into the path of Eddie Gaven. The Crew’s midfielder collected the ball and slotted a low left-footed shot into the far right corner to tie the score.

“Robbie hit a cross and they headed the ball right to me,” Gaven said. “I just took a touch and swung. I closed my eyes and hit it. I think it squeaked under the goalie’s arms or something. I’ll take them any way I can get them.”

THE GIBBS THAT KEEPS ON GIVIN’

Back on level terms, the Crew needed just four more minutes to take the lead in the 35th. Some beautiful interplay between Gino Padula, Brian Carroll, and Rogers created a dangerous attack for the Crew. Rogers sent a low cross into the box, directly into the path of Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s run. Guille would have had a tap in if Gibbs hadn’t slid in front of him to knock the ball into the net for an own goal. Some own goals are flukes, but while the goal will forever be recorded as a gift from Cory Gibbs, it was a well earned goal for the Crew.

“It was a great ball from BC, and Guillermo was in the perfect spot, so their guy had to slide,” said Rogers. “If I play more balls like that, it’s dangerous for defenders. If they don’t clear it, Guille scores, and if they try to clear it, it’s tough for them and they can put it in their own net.”

True, but still. A bad clearance and an own goal…that was a rough four minutes for Cory Gibbs.

BOGGS STRIKES AGAIN

Boggs, apparently an undercover operative for the ACME company, dropped another anvil on everybody’s heads in the 40th minute. This time he finished off a terrific sequence of quick, 4-on-7 passing through the Crew’s ball-watching defense. Boggs’ finished with his first touch, hitting the ball low into the left corner of the net.

“Zak performed great,” said Revolution coach Steve Nicol. “His second goal was a finish that anyone in the world would be proud of.”

The Crew went to the locker room locked in a befuddling 2-2 stalemate.

SECOND HALF CHANCES AND SUBS

The Crew began to assert their will in the second half. Eddie Gaven was a terror with some glorious near misses, including a back heel off the crossbar that would have been a goal of the year candidate. Steven Lenhart misfired on some chances, including a breakaway that got snuffed out by Revs goalkeeper Preston Burpo. Fluid and fearsome, the Crew’s attack was doing everything but putting the ball in the net.

Crew coach Robert Warzycha turned to his bench. In came Jason Garey in the 71st minute. Then came Emmanuel Ekpo in the 78th. And then Sergio Herrera made his long-awaited Crew debut in the 89th minute.

In Saturday’s Columbus Dispatch, Shawn Mitchell wrote a story detailing how Warzycha doesn’t like to go to his bench. Last year, when Warzycha famously made full use of his entire roster, those changes were reflected in the starting lineup, not by a liberal use of substitutes. The Crew were dead last in minutes played by substitutes, and it wasn’t even close.

I sometimes like to kid Shawn that his articles are all-powerful. For example, in 2008, Shawn lamented the lack of blowouts by the first-place Crew. The next game, the Crew trounced Salt Lake 3-0, prompting then-coach Sigi Schmid to ask Shawn if he was satisfied with the score line. So given the topic in Saturday’s paper, I thought maybe Warzycha would come out and ask Shawn if he was happy with the amount of substitutions. No such luck, but Warzycha did provide the real explanation of why he went to his bench.

 “I was trying to help the team,” he said. “That was the thought process. It’s not that someone had a bad game or I had to reward a guy on the bench. I was trying to change the luck. We were playing very well in the end and we were creating chances, but it seemed like the ball did not want to go in the back of the net. Especially Eddie’s back heel that hits the crossbar, and then Stevie’s (breakaway) chance. I was hoping somebody was going to get lucky in the end. If I don’t change anything, if I don’t make the switch, maybe we would hit the crossbar again, or hit the post again, or do something where the ball doesn’t go in.”
 
THE WINNER

Warzycha succeeded in changing the luck. Substitute mojo was all over the final goal. Immediately upon entering the game, Herrera collected a poor New England goal kick and then gave the ball to Schelotto. That’s usually a smart decision. As Schelotto held the ball on the left side, Jason Garey violently pointed toward the far post, desperate to catch Guille’s attention. With the scored tied and the Crew in need of a sublimely perfect pass, Schelotto’s 37-year-old legs did not betray him after 91 minutes of soccer. He lofted a cross directly into the space that Garey had selected. Garey ran onto the ball and drilled a powerful header to beat Burpo for the apparent winning goal.

“The ball from Guille was perfect,” said Garey. “I knew I had to create some space, so I stayed wide and screamed for the ball.  Guille found me with a perfect pass.”

Then Darrius Barnes arrived to mess it all up. Barnes’ dramatic goal line clearance of Garey’s header momentarily seemed to be another case of close but no cigar for Columbus. However, this time, Robbie Rogers alertly followed the play and bounced the winning goal into the net from three yards out. In not quite textbook fashion, Rogers managed to roof the ball by smacking it straight down into the turf. But hey, stoppage time winners all count the same in the standings, don’t they?

“The last goal was kinda scary,” said Rogers. “I roofed it off the ground, but I’ll take it. It’s my first goal of the season five games in, but most importantly, it was three points at home. A draw tonight would have felt like a loss for sure, so I am really stoked that we got three points.”

Rogers received a yellow card for removing his jersey in celebration of his game-winner.

“I was a little emotional,” he said. “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that, but whatever. It’s been a while since I scored.”

And while Rogers was excited and relieved to end his goal scoring drought in such dramatic fashion, additional relief was felt some 100 yards in the background.

“Given the circumstances, I was really, really, really, really hoping for us to pull it out,” said Hesmer. “I didn’t care how it went in. We needed the three points and I knew it was going to be squarely on my shoulders if we only walked out of here with one.”

And that’s how it’s supposed to work. Sometimes the goalkeeper picks up his team, and sometimes the team picks up its goalkeeper.
 
THE POACHER’S DILEMMA

I asked Rogers if Garey had given him and gruff for getting an easy rebound after Garey was robbed of an emphatic game-winner.

“Not yet,” said Rogers. “I am probably going to avoid him for a little while.”

Garey said he doesn’t hold any ill-will, even in jest.

“As for giving Robbie crap, I don't think there is any reason for that,” he said. “While I would have loved to score myself, I'm just glad we got the win.  Robbie had a great game. He was dangerous from the opening whistle and he deserved a goal. I’m just glad I got to set Robbie up. He needed a goal.”

Besides, it was a just result for Rogers, who lost a surefire assist on the Gibbs own goal.

 STATISTICAL ROBBERY

Speaking of which, desperately lunging New England defenders cost the Crew a lot on the score sheet. Here’s how the Crew’s players officially fared:

Gaven: 1 G
Rogers: 1 G

Here’s how the Crew’s players would have fared if Gibbs and Barnes had not made their last minute lunges in the goal mouth:

Schelotto: 1 G, 1 A
Gaven: 1 G
Garey: 1 G
Rogers: 1 A
Carroll: 1 A
Herrera: 1 A

Sometimes I think soccer’s official scoring is a little too strict. To my eyes, to give an accurate representation of the game, Garey and Guille deserved assists on Rogers’ goal, and I think assists should still be awarded on own goals if pertinent. In this case, Rogers and BC definitely deserved assists on the Gibbs own goal. What’s it matter whether Gibbs or Guille tapped it in? It was still a dangerous and creative build-up that directly created a goal. Ditto for the winner. What’s it matter that Barnes stopped the ball on the goal line for Rogers to clean up? Guille and Garey still created the play that directly resulted in a goal. (For the record, I think the Gaven goal should remain unassisted. That was just a bad header off of a normal cross, and it happened to fall to Gaven.)

So to my way of thinking, the official score sheet should have looked like this:

Rogers: 1 G, 1 A
Gaven: 1 G
Schelotto: 1 A
Garey: 1 A
Carroll: 1 A

I realize that I am arguing against a gazillion years of soccer tradition, but sometimes it bugs me that soccer goes out of its way to intentionally downplay legitimate offensive contributions that lead directly to goals. MLS went a little too far in the other direction in its early days, handing out “hockey assists” to anyone that touched the ball in the offensive half of the field, but there has to be a better way—a happy medium that will give credit where it is due. I don’t buy the notion that the moment the ball grazes a single molecule of a defender, the ability for an assist resets. I think rebounds from goalposts and great keeper saves, as well as desperate defender touches immediately preceding a goal should keep the assist alive if warranted.

It just flummoxes me that the ultimate team sport is so intent on sharing as little credit as possible for the creation of goals. Saturday’s game just happened to be a good example of soccer’s scorekeeping stinginess in action, thus the rant.

STICKING WITH IT, PT 1: ALLOWING THE FIRST GOAL

As mentioned, this core group of Crew players have a history of fighting back after allowing the first goal. The Crew are 1-0-2 this year when allowing the first score of the game.

After allowing a soft first goal, Hesmer was thankful to be part of such a resilient team.

“Unfortunately, that has happened to us a lot over the last two or three years, where it takes giving up goal—although not a goal of that nature, which is so deflating—but sometimes we give up a goal and think, ‘Now it’s time to play,’” he said.  “It’s not how the coaches draw it up, that’s for sure. It’s a mentality. We’re Columbus, so we have that ‘us against the world’ mentality. When people start writing positive stuff about us, we don’t do well. When they say bad things about us, we’re like, ‘Alright, it’s time for us little Columbus boys to prove them wrong.’ It’s unfortunate that it’s like that, but at times it is also a good thing too.”

STICKING WITH IT, PT 2: THE BARRAGE OF LATE CHANCES

As the Crew’s late pushes kept coming up empty, it appeared that the game was at a mental crossroads. Either the Crew could feed off the fact that they were creating chances and continue to create more until one of them paid off, or they could get frustrated that the ball wasn’t going in the net. Thankfully, the Crew saw the glass as half full.

“You can’t get frustrated because that’s when you make bad decisions,” said Rogers. “You have to stay patient and play the right balls. If you get frustrated, you get impatient and start forcing things.”

“We all believe in each other and it just felt like we were going to get one,” said Frankie Hejduk. “They were dropping off so much. They were in hopeful mode. They had guys going down to kill time. Once you start doing that…justice was served.”

MR. NUMBERS NERD: RECORD-SETTING EJECTION EDITION

It was one late slide for Danny O’Rourke, and one giant leap into the Crew’s record book. Matt Bernhardt, my longtime friend and colleague who is now the statistical guru over the independent Crew news site MassiveReport.com, advised me after the Crew’s 1-1 draw in Seattle that Danny O’Rourke’s red card in that game set a new all-time Crew record. The red card was the 5th of O’Rourke’s Crew career, breaking the deadlock he had (briefly) shared with fellow Indiana University tough guy Mike Clark.

For some reason, the Sounders didn’t stop the game to commemorate the occasion. What a rip off. They should give their fans their money back.

Two other notes of interest:
 
1. O’Rourke set the mark in just over three Crew seasons, whereas Clark did not get his fourth red card until his 8th Crew season.

2. The Crew are 0-2-3 in Danny’s red card games, but were inexplicably 2-1-1 (officially 3-1 with shootouts) in Clark’s sendoffs.
 
Here are Bernhardt’s red card listings for Clark and O’Rourke…

Clark's red cards:

1.) August 4, 1996 - 33rd minute (1-1 SOW at Los Angeles, Fitz' first game in charge)
2.) August 24, 1996 - 81st minute (2-1 win vs Kansas City)
3.) April 30, 1998 - 80th minute (1-0 win at Tampa Bay)
4.) June 21, 2003 - 57th minute (2-1 loss at San Jose)  

O’Rourke's red cards:

1.) June 3, 2007 - 86th minute (3-2 loss at Chicago)
2.) May 31, 2008 - 22nd minute (2-0 loss at Chivas)
3.) May 17, 2009 - 89th minute (1-1 draw at Los Angeles)
4.) April 10, 2010 - 89th minute (2-2 draw at Dallas)
5.) May 1, 2010 - 85th minute (1-1 draw at Seattle)

O’ROURKE VS. CLARK: OUGHTON’S ANALYSIS
 
For further in-depth analysis of this new Crew record, I thought I would turn to Crew veteran Duncan Oughton. Having played and trained with both Clark and O’Rourke for many years at different stages of his career, nobody is more qualified than Oughton to compare and contrast the two of them.
 
Well, at least in theory. Oughton seemed confused when I informed him that Danny’s 5th Crew red card broke Clarkie’s Crew record.
 
“Really?...Clarkie only had four red cards?”
 
With that shock out of the way, Oughton moved on to the analysis.
 
“I think if you look at Clarkie’s four red cards, they were all probably strong-nosed, horrific tackles where he was probably mad at someone,” the Kiwi said. “Danny can do those bad tackles, but he also has some hand gestures and things that he says that can get him red cards. I think Danny has a broader assortment of cardable actions, so he has much more variety, whereas Clarkie generally stuck to the crunching foul as his standard red card.
 
“I think Danny’s variety has made the difference, but to be fair, I think the referees are maybe a little stricter these days. Otherwise, I think Clarkie may have outdone four by about….ten. I estimate that he’d have about ten more red cards with the current refereeing. That doesn’t take anything away from Danny’s record because I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Danny. I think he’ll kick on and maybe come up with something new that we haven’t even seen before. Possibly he’ll pull down his pants one day and get a red card. Who knows? Whatever it is, I can’t wait to see it. Maybe if he ever scores that first goal, his goal celebration will lead to a red card. It will be a beautiful thing to see.”
 
I was curious if the IU boys’ meatheaded approach carried over to the practice field, where perhaps they refined their red card techniques.
 
“I am good friends with both of them, but I was roommates with Clarkie, and I can honestly say that I have had way more training fights with Clarkie,” Oughton said. “I don’t know if that was because of him or me, to be honest.”
 
Even though he sees a lot of similarities between the two, Oughton expressed some surprise that O’Rourke broke the record in less than half the time it took to set.
 
“Clarkie was a hardass on and off the field,” Duncan said, “whereas Danny looks at himself in the mirror a lot, is kind of emo, is a nice guy, and is all hugs and kisses until he steps on the field and the ‘tough’ switch kicks on. Clarkie is just an idiot all of the time. But I do love the man, so I mean that in the nicest possible way.”
 
CLARK SPEAKS ON HIS FALLEN RECORD
 
It seems like any time a major record falls, the press has to track down the guy who used to hold the record for his thoughts about his name getting deleted from the record books. To that end, I fired an email off to Indianapolis to see what Mike Clark had to say.
 
“What's the old quote, ‘Records are made to be broken’?” he wrote. “An even more appropriate quote would be, ‘Red card records are meant to be broken by fellow Hoosiers!’  I am honored to be surpassed in the red card category by a fellow Hoosier, especially one like Danny O'Rourke. I have a great deal of respect for him and love watching him battle on the pitch.  IU has always had a tradition of producing the blue collar type player. I think I fell under that category and I know Danny does too.”
 
Clark had his own theories as to how Danny managed to shatter his red card total in record time.
 
“The fact that Danny took barely three years to accomplish what took me eight is easily explained by looking at the laws of economics,” he wrote. “Coming out of college and making practically nothing was a large motivating factor when one considered the fines one incurred for accruing red cards.  A couple of red cards here and there and you might be eating spaghetti for a while.  That, coupled with the fact that Duncan Oughton has gotten close to Danny over the years that Danny has been with the Crew hasn't helped him either.  Duncan always wanted to be a Hoosier, so he tends to get close with the fellow Hoosiers. Duncan has a very magnetic personality, so I fear that Danny sometimes starts to play like Duncan, with reckless abandon.  Danny's a great player, so I'm sure that he'll take the time to exorcise all Duncan's bad habits out of his mind during some of the time off he's earned.”
 
I asked Clark if he had any fond memories of a specific red card, and if he found it as curious as I did that the Crew had a winning record in games from which he was ejected.
 
“Unfortunately, I don't really remember my red cards all that well due to selective amnesia or too many balls to the head,” he wrote. “As far as the team’s record, you know me, so I'm going to have to say that my red cards were inspirational to my teammates.”    
 
And while we’ve had a bit of fun with this record, Clark says Danny shouldn’t sweat it.
 
“Danny is too good of a player to worry about red cards when he plays,” he wrote. “He just needs to keep playing his game, even if every now and then he'll be a tad too late and have to pay the price.”
 
FISH STORIES, WITH JASON GAREY
 
I heard a good fish story at work last week, so I had to share it with the Crew’s resident angling expert, Jason Garey. Last Wednesday night, my co-worker and a buddy went catfishing. As my co-worker reeled in a catfish, he realized that they had forgotten to bring a net. Without a net to collect the writhing catfish, my co-worker opted to whip the fish onto the boat deck so that it could be subdued from there.
 
Already anticipating some sort of calamity, Garey said, “Rookie mistake.”
 
Yeah, that’s because catfish are equipped with poisonous spines in their dorsal and lateral fins. Sure enough, when my co-worker whipped the catfish onto the boat, he did so in such a way that he stuck the catfish’s dorsal fin directly into his buddy’s knee. His buddy yelped in pain as his knee was impaled by the poisonous spine of the catfish, which violently thrashed about while helplessly stuck in the guy’s leg.
 
“I wish I had a video camera with us,” said my co-worker, who I have dubbed The Catfish Ninja for his ability to use catfish like throwing stars.
 
Naturally, the fishing trip was aborted since my co-worker had to take his buddy to the emergency room. As an added bonus, it seems that the knee that got speared by the wayward catfish was in the process of recovering from a very recent knee surgery, so medical attention was imperative.
 
“That story is hilarious,” said Garey. “I hope for their sake that they had some adult beverages in them to make this a little less embarrassing for them. Any fisherman knows catfish have three poisonous barbs on them that have to be dealt with extremely carefully.  I learned my catfish lesson when I was about ten years old after being stung through my rubber boot trying to kick one back into the water.
 
“My advice is that your buddies need to: 1.) Remember the net, and 2.) Stop throwing catfish!”

WILLIAM HESMER: ALL-AROUND ATHLETE
 
As I blogged on Saturday, Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer was named Athlete of the Decade by the Wilson Times newspaper. You can read Paul Durham’s excellent recap of Hesmer’s soccer, football, basketball, and baseball exploits at the Wilson Times website.

http://www.wilsontimes.com/bestofdecade/story/Hesmer--incredibly-honored...

“I was really hoping that that would stay a secret,” Hesmer said of the article and award, “but I am proud of it. It’s special when people still think that highly of you after all this time.”

A number of things stood out to me when reading that article. One was that I found it amazing that after a three year layoff from baseball, Hesmer hit the first pitch he saw at his senior tryout for a mammoth home run. Baseball is a game of intricate, infinitesimal timing, so it takes a lot of athleticism to shake of years of rust in such grand fashion.

“I was as shocked as anybody,” he said. “To homer on the very first pitch was kinda, ‘Whoa.’ I can’t say it stayed like that. I struck out more often than not, but if I hit it, it was gone. I wasn’t much of a singles hitter.”

The second, and most glaring, thing that stood out to me is that Hesmer was twice named to the All-State team for soccer. That wouldn’t be so surprising from a future professional if it weren’t for the fact that his All-State goalkeeper selection as a senior was preceded a year earlier by an All-State selection as a midfielder. A midfielder!

Which leads me to my main point. I think sometimes people forget what excellent athletes exist at the MLS level. It is not uncommon for some everyday schlub in Crew gear to be asked by strangers if he plays for the Crew. It is not uncommon for random ex-high-school jocks or competitive men’s league players to state that they are better athletes than MLS players. It is not uncommon for people to slight soccer players in general.

And it’s all ridiculous. The problem is that it’s hard to compare apples to apples. A few years ago, when the Crew took on a local men’s league all-star team as a community-building event, the match was a disaster because the Crew’s talent level was exponential to that of their opponents. The Crew jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead before the match fell apart due to rough play. And it wasn’t so much that the amateurs were taking out their frustrations, it’s just that the gulf in talent was so steep that every honest attempt at the ball so far behind the speed of the Crew’s game (even at taking-it-easy level) that bad fouls happened one honest accident at a time. It’s impossible to recognize the true enormity of the gulf in talent until you see it side by side with your own eyes.

And when Joey the ex-Jock wants to crow about his high school glory days and how he is/was a better athlete than MLS players, his glory days likely won’t a candle to Hesmer’s. Never mind that Hesmer was a four-sport starter for conference winning teams. Never mind that Hesmer was named the Wilson Times’ Athlete of the Year. (And now Decade.) Never mind that Hesmer was an all-state soccer player at two different positions. It’s WHY he was All-State at two different positions.

Firstly, Hesmer’s natural position was goalkeeper, but he was so good in the field that he spent the majority of his club and high school careers dominating the center of park. Coaches figured he had more value there. The only time he knew he’d wear the gloves was when he was away with his state and regional ODP teams.

“(D.C. United midfielder) Clyde Simms and I were actually midfield partners for the Jamestown Jammers, 6-time state champions!” Hesmer said.  “However, with my state team and regional team I was always a goalkeeper, so I knew that was where my future lay.”

Well, that’s where his soccer future lied, anyway.

Secondly, the only reason Hesmer switched to goalkeeper for his final high school season was because he was focused on a football scholarship. Wake Forest had started recruiting Hesmer as a cornerback in his junior year at Hunt High School.

“Playing goalkeeper my senior year made it easier because I wasn’t as integral on the soccer field,” Hesmer said. “I could spend more time at football practice since practices were at the same time.”

Until that point, football had been nothing more than a fun diversion, but suddenly he had offers from all over. He narrowed his choices down to Wake Forest and North Carolina, plus considered accepting football visits to Yale and Navy.

“The idea of going to college to play football was something that popped up out of nowhere,” he said.  “The idea was more like a temptress than anything. I had only played football for three years, and I never gave the sport an extra day of practice outside of the season.   The fact that I had spent almost every weekend of my childhood and teenage years playing soccer all over the country and world weighed heavy on me.  I was never pressured one way or another, but football was such a bigger deal where I was from, and to go play at an ACC school on a football scholarship would have made people view me as a much grander athletic success story. My granddad was a very good running back for UNC in his day as well, so that was in my head a little bit.”

Amidst the All-State performance in goal his senior year, the soccer recruiting also kicked into high gear.

“Soccer always really won out,” he said. “I really wanted to be an athlete in the ACC, so I went on soccer visits to Duke and Virginia in the fall of my senior year. I hated UVa from the first second, but I actually liked Duke. Then after those two visits, Wake Forest soccer entered the picture.”

Hesmer had already been impressed with the school from his football recruiting visit, but meeting the soccer players and coaches sealed the deal. He chose soccer over football.

“I committed the following day, on my 18th birthday,” he said. “I absolutely loved every part of Wake Forest, and luckily it ended up being one of the best, if not the best, decisions I've ever made. Ultimately, choosing a school was all about academics for me.  I never thought I would be getting paid to play a sport, and the chances of it happening I thought were so slim that I wanted to make sure that academics came first, and any glory, success, or livelihood derived from sport was a plus.”

Hesmer played the big three American sports in addition to soccer, and he said soccer players are every bit as athletic as players in the other sports.

“Of course, I am biased and think that goalkeepers are the best of them all because you have to be good with both your hands and feet,” he said. “I think it’s one of the most athletic positions in all of sport.”

For those that lament that often soccer loses its best athletes to the more traditional American sports, Hesmer is an example of a multi-sport star with options who stuck by the beautiful game. He has no regrets.

“I think I made the right decision,” he said about choosing soccer over football.  “Some may think otherwise when comparing a Southwest Airline middle seat from Columbus to Seattle with a connection in Dallas versus a luxurious charter from New York to Miami while betting 25k on a card game like it was a skittle…but they've never witnessed a Chad Marshall naked cartwheel.”

(If anyone needs a refresher on oddball Crew traditions, Marshall has been known to celebrate victories with a naked cartwheel in the Crew locker room. Most famously, he performed this usually-private celebration on the champagne soaked floor after the Crew won MLS Cup 2008, despite the fact that the locker room was packed with reporters.)

HESMER: MODERN-DAY MIDDIE?

Now that we know Hesmer was an all-state midfielder, I wondered if folks like Brian Carroll and Adam Moffat should be worried for their jobs.

“I always try to tell these guys that I’ve got skills and that I scored a lot of goals in high school, but they don’t believe me,” Hesmer said. “I can for sure hit a ball better than BC, I’ll tell you that. I’m always giving BC crap about that. (As for Moffat,) I used to score a lot of goals with my head, but that was a long time ago so I don’t know if that’s still in my repertoire. I was always a lot bigger than everybody, so that helped.”

QUIPS

To wrap things up, here are two really good quips from the press box…

* Kyle McCarthy, responding to the Revs’ PR announcement that New England had made no lineup changes at the half: “And we know that the Crew didn’t make any changes because we read our Columbus Dispatch today!”

* Craig Merz, discussing the logistics for our upcoming media road trip to New York for the Crew-Red Bulls match: “We’ll just park the van in Times Square and then head over to the game.”

Questions? Comments? Did a double-take at Christopher Sullivan’s commentary on the replay of Gaven’s goal? Feel free to write at sirk65@yahoo.com or follow via Twitter @stevesirk.

Steve Sirk is a contributor to TheCrew.com. His first book, “A Massive Season”, which chronicles the Crew’s 2008 MLS Cup championship campaign, is currently available at the Crew Gear store and Amazon.com. This article was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.