To help celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Crew's 2002 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup victory, TheCrew.com will be catching up with a few of the players that helped bring the first piece of silverware to Columbus throughout the 2012 season. The series begins with 2002 MLS Rookie of the Year and current color analyst for MLS broadcasts on NBC Sports Network, Kyle Martino.
Cody Sharrett: The ten-year anniversary of the Crew's 2002 US Open Cup title is this year. What are some of your favorite memories of that run?
Kyle Martino: Getting to play with some of my heroes: Brian McBride, John Harkes, and Brian Maisonneuve-- guys I grew up watching when I was younger. I had posters of them on my wall and dreamed of playing for the National Team one day. To be on the field with those guys and to win a trophy--not only to win a trophy, but win against the LA Galaxy, against some of the best players in the league-- it was just a magical moment.
CS: In the championship game, you guys finished with 10 men (after Chad McCarty was shown his second caution in the 83rd minute). From what you recall, what were those last few minutes like holding on to the 1-0 lead?
KM: It's so funny. Most of that game is a blur, but I can remember one play so well. We were up and we're feeling good. We think we're going to win and we're holding on as we're getting shelled a little bit. I tracked (Mauricio) Cienfuegos back into the corner and he's getting ready to cross the ball in with his left foot and I'm sprinting to catch up with him and I dive and slide to try to block his cross. He cut the ball back and made me look like a fool and then crosses the ball into the box. I remember I was over the endline, looking back just begging the guys on the team to make up for me making a stupid play and Cienfuegos making me look silly. I was just praying that ball did not go anywhere near the net. The guys bailed me out and we ended up winning. I'm glad I wasn't the one that cost us the game by getting smoked by Cienfuegos.
CS: Not only the Open Cup in '02, but the Crew had a pretty good year in MLS. You were Rookie of the Year, teamed up with veterans like McBride, Maisonneuve, and Robert Warzycha, what made that team successful?
KM: Everyone played for each other. There weren't any superstars on the team. Of course there were guys that were very talented and considered superstars, but there were no egos. Everyone really cared about winning a trophy. I just remember everyone battling for each other. Everyone was very unselfish and put the team first. When we went into the Open Cup, we had just so many dangerous guys on that team that could make a difference as long as we kept ourselves in games.
CS: A couple years prior to the Crew's Open Cup win, the tournament was named after the Crew's founder, Lamar Hunt. What did it mean to you to be able to win the Open Cup in his presence?
KM: It was huge. Lamar is one of the reasons we have the league. He's one of the reasons kids that were in love with soccer, like me, and had a dream, had sort of a beacon of hope and a means to everything. It wasn't just sitting in your backyard, imagining yourself playing in a World Cup. There was a league, (Hunt) built with a few other guys. If they didn't have the love for the game and the commitment to build this league, it wouldn't be around. So to be able to win (the Open Cup) in the Hunt family's presence, and have them come into the locker room afterward and celebrate with us, it was truly a remarkable moment.
CS: Finally, looking back on it now, what's it mean to you to have been a part of the Crew's first major piece of silverware and part of the club's legacy?
KM: It's an incredible thing because you go and look through the media guides and for years to come, there's going to be new Crew players or new Crew fans that will look back through the history books and myself and all the other guys on the team are part of history. No one can take that away from us. It's really cool. I can't wait 'til the day I take my children to their first Columbus Crew game and we flip through the media guide and I point out that their father wasn't such a slouch.
CS: We look forward to seeing you around Crew Stadium soon. Thank you for your time. I understand you're busy covering MLS and the US National Team with NBC Sports, but thank you for taking some time to chat tonight.
KM: Anytime. Thanks so much.