Veterans taking the lead while team grieves
Soccer took a back seat earlier in the week as the Crew family was shaken by the passing of 22-year-old rookie midfielder Kirk Urso. The tragedy has brought the team closer together as it tries to carry on business as usual while it continues to mourn Urso's death.
An attempt to return to normalcy has provided a release from the grieving process as the Crew prepares for Saturday night's match against Toronto FC.
"We're just going to carry on the way Kirk was, his legacy of always coming to practice everyday with a smile on his face, joking around, and his work ethic and just the way he carried himself," defender Eric Gehrig said. "If anything, we can learn from a guy like Kirk and carry it on with us."
"[Playing soccer] is probably the biggest way we can [honor Urso], trying to do the things that he did when he was here with us like being a hard worker, being a good teammate," midfielder Eddie Gaven said. "I think if we do that, that will be the best way we can honor his memory."
Gaven and his fellow veterans have helped unite the team in the wake of the tragedy, while also grieving themselves.
"It's all about trying to help each other out and sticking together through this process. Some guys are going to handle it a little bit differently than others, but the most important thing is that we try to get through this as a team," Gaven said.
The veterans have made themselves available to the younger players, offering assistance in whatever they may need while they cope with the loss of their teammate.
"[The veterans] have been great. They talk to us, we've had player meetings. They're there for any of us. All the older guys, they make sure we know they'll do anything," rookie forward Ben Speas said. "They miss him too. They liked him too and they'll be forever affected by it. They've been great."
"I've told everyone: this team is different. There aren't any little groups here of veterans, rookies, second team, or foreigners," Gehrig explained. "Everyone is together. [The veterans] are going through the same thing we are, but they've done a good job. They're hurting inside, but they've taken the initiative and made sure everyone is taken care of."
Still, it has been difficult for the players to not see Urso on the sidelines watching the team train as he did while rehabbing from groin surgery.
"It's tough because Kirk would sit right over there and watch us train," Gehrig explained, pointing at the bleachers that line the practice field at the Crew's training facility in Obetz. "He didn't have to be here, which shows a lot about what kind of person he was as he was still here supporting [the team]."
"[Training] is a little bit of a distraction," Gehrig continued. "We're trying to move on in the process, not move on from Kirk-- we'll never move on from Kirk-- but just trying to get on through the situation."
"It's tough. It's just different. Personally, it's nice to get out there and sweat and get tired. Still, my mind is on [Urso]," Speas said in a somber tone. "It's tough. I think about him a lot. Away from the field, I think about him all the time."
The Crew will train twice more this week before taking the field in honor of its fallen family member on Saturday night at Crew Stadium against Toronto FC.