One of the more interesting things to note over the course of the day was how the legends interacted. While all of these guys proudly wore the Black & Gold at some point in their careers, they did so at different times in the club’s history. Some were teammates. Many were not. But instead of breaking into smaller cliques sorted by era, the group freely joked and interacted with each other all day long. It wasn’t just the 1990s guys hanging out over here, while the 2008 guys hung out over there, for example. Rather, they all enjoyed each other’s company.
One would find Brian McBride chatting with Gino Padula. Or Alejandro Moreno with Mike Clark. Or Duncan Oughton with Stern John. Or Brian Dunseth with Brad Friedel. And so on. No matter which eras were being cross-pollinated during a particular encounter, almost all of the conversations resulted in laughter.
“We got on really well with each other,” said Stern John. “All of the guys were down to earth. There wasn’t no Big-Time Billys or nothing like that. Everyone got on really well and was here to support the cause. The banter was funny. I’ve been laughing the last eight hours.”
Dante Washington echoed the theme of constant laughter.
“We were talking all night and our cheeks were hurting from laughing so hard,” he said. “Between Clarkie and Duncan, it was just an utter mess of hilariousness. I don’t even know if that’s a word, but it’s true. That speaks to the whole family atmosphere that this organization represents. Regardless of whether you played in 1996 or are one of the current players, it’s what you represent. Nobody’s bigger than the club and we all respect each other for being part of it. Except for Dunny and Duncan. I don’t respect them at all.”
Prior to this event, the only thing Alejandro Moreno remembered about Mike Clark was that Clark kicked him in the face during a 2003 game in Los Angeles and got a red card. More than a decade later, the two got to spend the day together as Black & Gold legends.
“Moreno, I never played with him,” Clark said. “I played against him, obviously, but I had never really gotten an opportunity to really speak to him on a social level before, so it was kind of neat. Obviously the common bond is that we’ve both played for the Crew and won championships. I know Moreno has a ton of respect for Columbus and will always be tied to the city, and I do as well, so I think that is a common bond. I think that if any point you’ve put on the Black & Gold, you’re in a unique family. You’re one of the select few that’s been able to do that. We will always have that in common.”
Moreno said that common bond is what made this event so special.
“I think it’s great for the fans, great for us, and great for the organization,” he said. “It brings together people that perhaps didn’t play with each other, but yet there is a commonality. There is a common thread between all of them. We all came back because we believe this is a special place. If we didn’t think this was a special place, when we got the invitation, we would have said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ But all of us, when we received the call, it was, ‘When do I need to be there?’”
Brian McBride said the tightness of the soccer community also played a role in the cohesiveness of this group of legends.
“That’s also our profession,” he said. “Soccer is a small community. It’s getting bigger, but it’s easy to hang with guys who have done what you’ve done, just like any profession. Then you add in that we’ve all been here and part of the Crew, and that makes it special.”
For Duncan Oughton, the respect that everyone held for each other’s career accomplishments and contributions to the club made the conversations, trash talk and good times possible.
“With that respect, everyone’s got a little bit of banter about them and we just hit it off,” he said. “You have to give a little and take a little and that’s what we did. I’ve met Stern before and I’ve me Brad Friedel before, but we’ve never hung out for long periods of time. We all just kind of clicked and got on great. Everyone has interesting stories and everyone likes to listen. At the end of the day, we’re all there for the same reason, which is the love of the club. And I guess the love of each other, since we were all part of the club. It’s a good group of guys. Of course, everyone has people that they are closer with, but when we all get together, it’s like we’re all part of one team. It’s weird.”
Or maybe it’s not weird. Maybe it has everything to do with the club and the city that brought these men together. Even if he probably thinks that the red card from 2003 surely must have been the result of face-to-boot contact instead of boot-to-face contact, Clark is in 100% agreement with Moreno that Columbus has a unique hold on many hearts.
“I think there’s something special about Columbus where people feel tied to the city somehow,” Clark said. “The city embraces the players and the players embrace the city. I’d be willing to bet that it doesn’t happen in every MLS city. I’m sure other MLS cities have some sort of feeling like that, but I think Columbus is unique in how strong that feeling is.”