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26 May 2:58 pm

By: David Cath

When Columbus Crew SC hosts La Liga’s Valencia CF this Wednesday as part of the LFP World Challenge, the Black & Gold will be going toe-to-toe with a 2015-16 UEFA Champions League Playoff Stage entrant that fields two players from this season's “La Liga Team of the Season.” Only FC Barcelona and Real Madrid fielded more. Needless to say, it’s going to be a fun match to watch.

In case you’re not up-to-date on your Valencia knowledge, we’ve done the work for you. Here’s a list of players to watch for when one of La Liga’s best comes to town.

Forward Francisco “Paco” Alcacer

At only 21 years old, the Spanish striker has already cemented himself as one of the League’s top goal scorers. In La Liga play, Alcacer scored 10 goals and dished out five assists in 25 appearances for the fourth-ranked club.

Though Alcacer’s professional career is just blooming, his international accolades are already starting to mount. In May 2010, Alcacer led Spain to the UEFA Under-17 European Championship match where he earned top-scorer honors with six goals throughout the tournament. In June 2011, the striker led his home country to an Under-19 European Championship title thanks to his three-goal performance. Alcacer continued his goal scoring run into the 2012 Under-19 European Championship match, scoring two goals and leading Spain to another trophy ceremony.

Midfielder Dani Parejo

A product of Real Madrid’s development academy, Parejo earned his stripes elsewhere. After his stint as a youth member for one of Spain’s perennial powerhouses, Parejo transferred to Queens Park Rangers in 2008, then to Getafe in 2009, where the Madrid-native played until his signing with Valencia in 2011.

Parejo is a central midfielder who combines defensive substance with keen offensive vision, rightly earning him top goal-scoring honors for Valencia (11) and a spot on UEFA’s “Best Eleven Players of La Liga in 2014-15.” For a team that is aggressive and prefers to attack through the middle, Parejo is a valuable asset to Valencia’s style of play and a fun player to watch for any soccer fan.

Defender Nicolás Otamendi

As one of the best center backs in the world, it’s a no-brainer as to UEFA named Otamendi as one of La Liga’s “Best Eleven Players for the 2014-15 season.” For a defender, the 27-year-old is known for his positioning and great anticipation, and with six goals on the season, the Argentine international has the gift of quality touch with the ball at his feet.

Defender Jose Gaya

Jose Guya is the definition of a homegrown jewel. The attacking fullback for Valencia has been with the club since the beginning, playing in its development academies, and he has sprouted into one of the club’s most promising young players.

Guya’s 2015 campaign served as a showcase for the young defender’s potential and his play did not go unnoticed, as Guya was recently chosen in the “Once de Oro” in Futbol Draft 2015, which names the best Spanish players born after January 1, 1994. Guya’s specific recognition comes in the form as the best young left back in 2015.

Forward Alvaro Negredo Sanchez

As the second-most expensive transfer in club history, Alvaro Negredo tallied five goals in 33 appearances this season. On loan from Manchester City FC, although his offensive capabilities haven’t been on display as much this year, Negredo’s knack for finding the back of the net has earned him a spot as a full member of the Spanish National Team, with which he won the 2012 European Championship.

22 May 11:25 am

In Crew SC's 302 regular-season home matches at Ohio Stadium and MAPFRE Stadium, more than 4.6 million spectators have witnessed 160 Black & Gold victories and made a whole lot of unforgettable soccer memories.

After 20 years in Major League Soccer, there is still history to be made and Crew SC could reach its next milestone today against conference rival Chicago Fire.

Columbus currently sits at 499 regular-season goals at home. Having scored 10 in the last three home matches, chances are home goal No. 500 will come against the Fire. But before we get too excited, we want to relive other milestone-marking, regular-season home goals. You’ll notice that each of these goals came during a win, so one more goal next Friday may just be the good luck charm Crew SC needs to put out the Fire.

Goal No. 1: Thor Lee – 4/13/96 vs. DC United

If that name doesn’t ring a bell with avid Crew SC supporters, there are two reasons for it: 1) Lee only spent one season in Major League Soccer and 2) he played for DC United, Crew SC’s opponent that day. Lee registered an own goal in the 18th minute of Crew SC’s existence in MLS to give the Black & Gold the lead. Brian McBride, the first player selected during the 1996 MLS Inaugural Player Draft just two months prior, became the first Crew SC player to register a goal, putting Columbus up 2-0 just 11 minutes later. McBride picked up another goal and an assist to help push the Black & Gold to a 4-0 win.

Goal No. 100: Rob Smith – 9/6/98 vs. MetroStars

In a game that also featured a visitors' own goal to start off the scoring, courtesy of MetroStars defender Mike Duhaney, Smith’s 77th minute beauty from outside the box proved to be the difference as Crew SC won 4-3. Smith's game-winner would end up being his final goal as a member of Crew SC.

Goal No. 200: Dante Washington – 6/15/02 vs. San Jose Earthquakes

The former U.S International picked up his fourth goal of the season with a bending, left-footed shot to the lower 90 in Crew SC’s 2-1 win over the Quakes. Columbus and San Jose exchanged goals in the 31st and 39th minutes respectively. 44 minutes later, Washington played hero to lock up three points.

Goal No. 300: Stefani Miglioranzi – 6/20/07 vs. Kansas City Wizards

With a corner kick flying into the box, Miglioranzi nestled his way into traffic and floated a header over the outstretched arm of Kansas City’s Kevin Hartman to put Crew SC up 2-0. Kansas City would tack on a goal in the 93rd minute, so Miglioranzi's first goal of the season proved to be the match winner.

Goal No. 400: Tommy Heinermann vs. 6/26/11 Colorado Rapids

Andres Mendoza’s 48th minute goal put Crew SC up 3-1 and all but sealed the match, but Heinermann’s goal nine minutes later put the cherry on top in a historic way. After some nifty ball movement and a well-defended cross, Heinermann was there for the rebound and sent a rocket towards the left side of the net. Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens got a hand on it, but the shot was too powerful and Heinermann made stadium history with goal No. 400.

21 May 12:04 pm

We'd like to tip our hat to David Letterman on an incredible run with the Late Show. As a tribute to his final show last night, we created our own Letterman-esque "Top 10 List." We present: The top 10 reasons why we're stoked for Friday's match against the Chicago Fire.

10. The Nordecke is about to be all sorts of crazy.


9. Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium usually means goals, which means more moments like this:


8. It’s totally OK to make fire puns.


7. We have a chance to shine on national TV.


6. You’ll look up Bridgeview, Illinois on a map. Hooray for learning!


5.  Friendly banter!


4. You realize Kei Kamara & Justin Meram have scored more goals (10) than Chicago (9).


3. Ethan Finlay just might do something like this again.


2. You can buy a beer and brat pack for the match!


1. It’s another chance to defend our fortress, another chance for a "YES!" chant.

19 May 12:35 pm

Another chapter of the Crew SC - Chicago Fire rivalry will be written this Friday when the two sides clash at MAPFRE Stadium. Columbus and Chicago have combined for two MLS cups, four Supporters’ Shields, and five Lamar U.S Open Cups. Over the past 17 years, they have faced-off a total of 52 times. Here are our five favorite moments from the Midwestern match-up.

July 9, 1998 – Crew SC’s First Win Over Chicago

Chicago accumulated a 20-12-0 record and captured the MLS Cup in its inaugural season, but not before making its first and only trip to Ohio Stadium. Crew SC jumped on the Fire early with an unassisted eighth-minute goal, courtesy of Stern John. Rob Smith and Brian McBride tacked on two more goals to secure the 3-0 win.

Oct. 4, 2004 – Crew SC’s First Regular Season Eastern Conference Title

Talk about a grind-it-out win. Crew SC and the Fire accumulated more fouls (30) than shots (16) in this heated clash. It took the Black & Gold almost an hour to get on the scoreboard, but Edson Buddle’s 59th-minute tally was just enough to capture the 1-0 win and with that the first regular season conference title in Crew SC history. Columbus went on to finish the season with a 12-5-13 record (49 pts.)

Oct. 12, 2008 – Supporters’ Shield: Check

Usually, a 2-2 tie would not get us too riled up, but it was just what Crew SC needed to clinch the Supporters’ Shield as the League’s best regular season club. Houston Dynamo was on the Black & Gold’s heels for the title throughout the season, but its 0-0 draw with D.C United that same night knocked the club out of contention. Eddie Gaven and Guillermo Barros Schelotto scored for Crew SC in the 59th and 61st minutes, respectively. The tie would not be the Black & Gold’s last dance with the Fire that season.

Nov. 13, 2008 – Crew SC Beats Chicago to Win Eastern Conference

A month after claiming the Supporters' Shield, Crew SC took on Chicago in another crucial match at MAPRFRE Stadium. In front of a packed house, former Crew SC striker Brian McBride broke the tie with a header to give Chicago the lead in the 29th minute. That lead would not survive much of the second half, however, when Chad Marshall received a well-struck set piece and headed it off the crossbar and into the net just three minutes after the break. Just six minutes later, Gaven took a headed through ball and slung it into the net to put the Crew up 2-1 and claim the Eastern Conference title. Crew SC went on to defeat the New York Red Bulls 3-1 to capture its first MLS Cup.

Sept. 21, 2013 – A Big Win and a Big Snack

Sure, Dominic Oduro’s 15th-minute goal was nice, but that celebration took planning and a dedicated person to hold the pizza. We cannot confirm whether Oduro was more excited to break the 0-0 draw or indulge in a mid-match snack, but we hope it’s the former. Kudos to Oduro for the creativity. Oh, Crew SC would also go on to score two more times to top Chicago 3-0 that day.