Last week, the soccer world got a pretty good jolt of craziness. Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt announced early in the week that unless the Crew got a new flashy new stadium in downtown Columbus, then he'd move the team to Austin, Texas in 2019. Needless to say, this pretty much turned the soccer world on its ear and riled up a bunch of the Crew faithful and media in response to it.
According to the initial article on SI.com, it turns out that the owner of the Crew, who I might add lives in San Francisco, had already been negotiating with the City of Austin months before this news broke. Most of the other articles on the subject have echoed the sentiment that demanding a new stadium and moving the Crew if it doesn't happen is a horrible idea, especially considering that the Crew is one of the original MLS franchises.
The stadium the Crew has now, Mapfre Stadium, isn't all that old having opened in 1999 as the first soccer specific stadium in the league and seems to be the de facto home of the US Men's National team as it's hosted ten matches from the team since it opened. It also hosts high school football, rugby matches, and concerts. But that's not the point. The point is that the owner wants taxpayers to pony up for a new soccer specific stadium to replace one that seems perfectly useful as it is.
I could go on a whole rant here about how this just irks me to no end but I won't. I'll just say that to me pitting the two cities against each other by a sports team owner is like a kid asking mom (Columbus in this case) for something and she says no. So the kid goes to dad (Austin, TX) and asks for the same thing. It's ridiculous.
As for myself, having never been much of a soccer person I was aware of the Crew and I always though it was pretty neat that Columbus managed to get a major league team in a new, upstart league in 1996. Even though I was aware of the Crew, that didn't mean I knew about the Crew. So, this announcement led me to do a little research on some of the Crew's top players. I googled "top ten Columbus Crew players" and that led me to their all-time stats page. I jotted down ten players from the list, then cross referenced that list for COMC for some cards. Three players didn't have cards so I took them off, thus leaving me with seven.
So, here's a look at seven notable players from the Columbus Crew all-time leader list with card images taken from COMC. I won't say these are the best players from the history of the Crew because "best" can be a subjective term. These seven players, however, could certainly spark the discussion.
Chad Marshall is the Crew's all time leader in a number of categories, games played (253), games started (250), and minutes played (22,220). He was the second overall pick in the 2004 MLS Superdraft by Columbus and spent nearly his whole professional career there before being traded to Seattle in December 2013. In his rookie season with Columbus, he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, helped the team to an 18-game unbeaten streak, and the MLS Supporters Shield, which is given to the team with the best overall record. In 2008, he led the defense on a team that won both the Supporters Shield and the MLS Cup along with being named MLS Defender of the Year. He was named captain in 2011 and then, as mentioned, was traded to Seattle in 2013 where he still plays.
Jeff Cunningham has the record for most goals (64) and most game winning goals (20) with the Crew. Not only that, but he's second all-time in the MLS for most career regular season goals (134) behind Landon Donovan. I'd say that's not too shabby. Cunningham had two different stints with the Crew, the first being from 1998, when he was the ninth overall pick in the MLS College Draft, to 2004, when the Crew traded him to Colorado for a first-round pick in the 2006 MLS Superdraft. After departing Columbus, he bounced around the league before being picked up again by Columbus in Stage 2 of the MLS Re-Entry draft. 2011 was his last year in MLS before becoming a free agent at the end of the season.
According to the official Crew records, Edson Buddle has the only four goal game in team history. While I was unable to secure the date of the actual game, that's still a pretty impressive feat. Buddle played for the Crew from 2001-2005 but was injury prone most of those years. However, he did manage to net nine goals and five assists in 1,304 minutes during the 2002 season, thus establishing himself as one of the top strikers in the league. Before the 2006 campaign began, the Crew shipped Buddle off to the NY Red Bulls and he bounced around the league for a few years there after, somehow always finding his way back to LA Galaxy for four different stints.
The only player on this list to both play for and manage the Crew, Robert Warzycha is the all-time leader in assists (61) and game winning assists (16). Having played mostly in Poland for most of his senior career, he joined the Crew for their inaugural season in 1996 and spent the next seven years with them before retiring in 2002. After his retirement, he stayed on with the Crew as an assistant coach and served as interim coach in 2005 after Greg Andrulis was dismissed. In 2009, he was promoted to head coach and in that first year, the Crew won the Supporters Shield.
Brian McBride was the inaugural member of the Crew's Circle of Honor in 2011 for his high standard of play. He leads the Crew in shots (460) and shots on goal (206) and was the first overall pick in the MLS Inaugural Draft. In eight seasons with the Crew, he scored 62 goals and had 45 assists. During his time with the Crew, he was loaned to Preston North End and Everton in the Premier League and eventually joined up with Fulham for four seasons. In 2010, he came back to MLS with the Chicago Fire and retired after the season.
I'll wrap this up with possibly one of the top goalies the Crew ever had, that being William Hesmer. The Crew's all time leader in games played by a goalie (130). At the beginning of his MLS career, he had a handful of appearances with Kansas City and was loaned to Richmond as well. He was selected by Toronto in the 2006 Expansion Draft but was traded to the Crew shortly thereafter where he blossomed. He became the Crew's all-time shut out leaded in 2010, made his 100th league appearance the following year but the injury bug caught up with him and by 2013 he had retired.
So there you have it, a look at seven prolific players from Columbus Crew history. I really hope the Crew doesn't pack up and leave town. They're synonymous with MLS in this region and hopefully there can be a way to #SaveTheCrew.