For three seasons, Brian Carroll was the centerpiece in a Crew midfield that helped win the 2008 MLS Cup and two Supporters Shields. Though he rarely made an impact in the box score, Carroll left a strong, lasting impression on teammates and fans alike with his tireless work-rate in central midfield.
"The amount of work [Carroll] did on the field was so crucial for our team, even though he doesn't show up on the stat line really," centerback Chad Marshall said of his former teammate. "The guy doesn't stop working. For me, he's always going to be one of the best defensive center mids ever in this League."
Carroll will return to Crew Stadium for the first time since being traded to the Philadelphia Union after the 2010 season when his Union side faces the Black & Gold on Saturday night [7:30 p.m. ET/FOX Sports Ohio]. The Union midfielder expects to be flooded with memories as he enters the stadium grounds this weekend.
When asked what memories stood out as the highlights from his time in Columbus, Carroll responded, "First and foremost, the two Supporters Shields and a [MLS Cup] championship, the friendships I was able to develop there, and how much we enjoyed the city itself."
The Springfield, Virginia product was always a fan favorite during his time with the Black & Gold. Just as beloved former Crew players like Alejandro Moreno, Steven Lenhart, and Frankie Hejduk have before him when visiting with opposing teams, Carroll will surely receive a post game ovation from the Nordecke regardless of the result.
"[The Crew fan support] is tremendous," Carroll said. "I certainly appreciate that a lot. It just goes to show that we did a few things right while I was there. I'm definitely happy to be in Philadelphia and happy for the success the Crew has had so far this season."
Carroll still keeps in touch with what he calls "the core" of the 2008 MLS Cup-winning side that includes players such as Marshall, Danny O'Rourke, William Hesmer, and now-front office employees Frankie Hejduk and Duncan Oughton.
Marshall, in fact, is dating the sister of Carroll's wife and is the godfather of Carroll's daughter that was born last month. The two continue to spend time together during the holidays.
Despite their friendship, Carroll and Marshall will become enemies for 90 minutes when the whistle blows on Saturday.
"Columbus will be on my mind a little bit as we fly in, and as we're hanging out and seeing some old faces," Carroll explained. "Once the game starts, it will all be about business and doing as well as we can."
Added Marshall, "You play in this League long enough, you have friends on every team. For those 90 minutes, you're not friends. You're just focusing on getting three points and on your team."
"But afterward, we'll probably grab a beer."