Dominic Oduro player tunnel
USA Today Sports

Sirk's Notebook: Fire, Fireworks, Firefighters

Before Saturday’s match against Chicago, the Crew honored the first responders from April’s legendary scoreboard fire. After Saturday’s match against Chicago, it was “Scoreboard: Fire.”

One week after an impressive win over first-place Montreal, the Crew dropped a 2-1 home decision to the rival Chicago Fire. Another night of missed opportunities and punished mistakes prevented the Crew from building on the previous week’s win and moving up the standings.

“It’s obviously very disappointing,” said Crew forward Dominic Oduro. “As I said last week, we have to keep the momentum going. We did good the first half. The second half was not good. We cannot be dropping points like that at home. We should have had points in this game. Just so many mistakes. Silly goals, silly mistakes on our part. We will just try and go back and drop all of the silly mistakes and play like we did in the first half. Especially going back to the game against Montreal, which was really good. We need to get back to that. Obviously tonight was not good enough.”


For the second game in a row, Oduro stole the ball from the last defender and went in one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Last week, Oduro put the ball inside the right post for this seventh goal of the season. This week, he never had the chance. After Oduro stole the ball from Chicago defender Austin Berry, he was taken down in the box by Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson, thereby earning a penalty kick.

“I’m just trying to use my speed to create chances for the team,” Oduro said. “I’m glad I was able to do that again today. He knew I was quick, so I don’t know what he was waiting for there. I just ran as fast as I could to try to get the ball, run into the box, and hopefully put the ball in the net. Then I got taken down by the goalie.”

Federico Higuain buried the 7th minute penalty kick, meaning Oduro’s roadrunner robbery has resulted in a pair of goals in as many games.

Regarding his recent high-pressure plundering spree, Oduro said, “I think my job up there is to make it tough for defenders, and I think I did that.”


The Fire grabbed the lead with a pair of quick goals early in the second half. In the 52nd minute, the Crew got worked on a throw-in, and Joel Lindpere’s cross found former Crew midfielder Dilly Duka as he peeled away to the far post. Duka volleyed the ball into the net to tie the score. In the 54th minute, Lindpere served another cross into the box. Josh Williams and Mike Magee went up for the ball, but it was Magee who chested the ball into the goal. It would prove to be the game-winner for the Fire.

“They were pretty similar,” Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said of the goals. “The first one is 2v2 on our right side. He splits them and we slide as we should, but Dilly made a good run to the back post. The second one was a good ball in, but again, it was preventable. We need to do a good job of doing the little things to win the game.”

Williams took immediate ownership of the second goal.

“The first one, I’m going to have to take a look, but the second one, I already know that’s on me,” Williams said. “I will take full responsibility for that. He just snuck in. Magee is a crafty guy and he snuck over my shoulder there. I went to clear it and it nicked off me and went off him and in. At the end of the day, that’s 100% my fault. I’ve got to do better there.”

An early lead not built upon and some defensive lapses that were duly punished left the Crew feeling empty.

“I think everyone feels like we let one get away and that if we really want to do something this year, we need to start taking advantage of those early leads,” Gruenebaum said. “We can’t let off the gas after we score goals. We should have the energy to go after them, and we didn’t do that.”


Former Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer, a Massive Champion, attended Saturday night’s game, sporting a Kirk Urso jersey.

Hesmer married his wife, Tacey, in December, and now the couple lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Hesmer serves as a financial advisor at Raymond James.

“New wife, new job, new city, new house, so yeah, it’s been a fun transition,” Hesmer said. “It’s been great. It’s the first time in my life I’ve had my weekends, so I spend a lot of time with my family and we go to the beach. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Over his final two seasons with the Crew, Hesmer interned in the finance field, preparing for his life after soccer. Now reaping the rewards of that preparation, he is working with professional athletes and other high net worth individuals to help them meet their financial planning goals.

“It’s a lot of long hours that I never thought I’d enjoy,” he said, “but when you’re building your own business and putting all those hours into your own success, it’s just like soccer. It’s fun.”

Earlier in the week, Hesmer spoke to the Crew’s players about financial planning and life after soccer. He has been an advocate for this sort of life training, as the lack of planning and information has been a common lament of players near the end of the career. The players’ union used to provide assistance in this area, but it has fallen off over the years. Hesmer is hoping to rekindle the discussions, and it obviously made sense to start with his former teammates on the Crew.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Hesmer said. “I think it was received well here. I think we talked in the player rep meetings and the union meetings about having a guy come around. Eddie Pope did it some, I believe, but the idea is to have a guy come around who has been in their shoes and say, ‘Your time, as much as you think it is infinite, it’s not. It’s not a matter of if you will stop playing, but when. If that day came, are you ready? Are you doing all of the little things that you can to take a step toward whatever it is—if you want to be a pilot, or an assistant coach, or anything else. Are you meeting the right people? Are you asking the right questions?’ We’re not saying you need to have a second career while you’re playing, but start thinking about that stuff. I think that message is something that’s kind of fallen by the wayside the last three or four years, and I don’t think guys think about it much, especially the young guys just coming up.”

It’s an all-too-common story to learn of a professional athlete who has gone bankrupt once his playing days are over. Granted, most MLS players aren’t making stupid money like players in the other major American sports, On one hand, perhaps MLS players won’t succumb to as many lifestyle traps, bit on the other hand, it also means that preparing for life after sports can be even more important since MLS players don’t make “set for life” money.

“I told these guys that there’s a stat that about 70% of professional athletes – and we’re talking NFL, NBA, and so on— have financial problems after they’re done playing,” Hesmer said. “A lot of it is trying to keep up that lifestyle when they’re done playing, squandering that money while they are playing, and not being prepared for a second career and having a way to keep some income rolling in and to use some of the income that they had made over the years. It’s simple stuff, really, If you do it and you do it the right way, you’ll be all right. As long as they’ve got that information, there’s no excuse.  Obviously, whenever you’re talking to a large group of guys, there are going to be guys that are like, ‘Okay, I just want to go home and fall asleep on my couch now.’ But I think that overall, the guys wanted to be there. Obviously, they know me better than they’d know somebody else, so maybe that helped it go a little better.”

Josh Williams felt that Hesmer’s session was informative.

“I thought that was exactly what we need,” Williams said. “The league basically covers everything else except for financial planning and planning for what happens in life after soccer. With Will, I think it helps a lot with us that he’s been around the team and that we all know he’s definitely a smart guy who knows what he’s talking about. I think it’s exactly what, not only us, but what the league needs.”
To that end, Hesmer plans to take his show on the road at least one more time.

“I’m going to go to Philly and meet with those guys sometime in the next couple weeks,” he said. “We’ll see how that one goes, then assess it and see if it’s something we want to do for all of the teams.”


Upon learning about the bottle rocket lawsuit, Gruenebaum started contemplating his own financial picture.

“I did not see that article, but that’s smart,” he said. “I’ve thought about doing something ridiculous and suing someone. I mean, that’s the American way, isn’t it? It’s a way to make a quick buck. I’m looking for a retirement plan, so the next time someone doesn’t put ‘hot coffee’ on their coffee cup, I’m pouring it all over my eyeballs and suing them. So if you’re a coffee company, you better make sure your cups have ‘hot coffee’ on there.”

Was this retirement planning advice from William Hesmer?

“No,” Gruenebaum said, “but I’m sure once it happens, Will will know what to do with my money.”

So, to reiterate, it was just a coincidence that Hesmer came in and talked to the Crew about preparing for life after soccer and Gruenebaum is planning to scald his eyeballs with hot coffee to fund his retirement.

“Will’s a bit brighter than that,” Gruenebaum said. “This is my dumb idea. But I’ll tell you what, if I ever do get that kind of money from a lawsuit or the lottery, everybody in this room is getting some, except for Josh. Josh is doing all right. He’s got some sponsorships, plus Josh is best friends with LeBron. What else does he need? Why would he need anything?”


Despite being a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, Williams was excited to see fellow Akronite (and best friend) LeBron James win his second consecutive NBA title last week.

“I’m just relieved that I don’t have to put up with any hassling for the next year,” said Williams, who gets hectored by people who dislike LeBron and the Heat. “I was just like, ‘Please win so I can rub it in for a day and then I don’t have to put up with all that hassling.’ He stepped up. You can’t really say anything about him.”

James dominated game seven and was declared the NBA Finals MVP. After game, James gave a speech about being “just a kid from Akron, Ohio” and how he wasn’t even supposed to be there. That speech is surely truer for Josh Williams and his MLS career than the guy who was known as “King James” and “The Chosen One” while his high school games were broadcast on national TV, but whatever. I figured that speech might have resonated with Williams as a result of his improbable journey to MLS.

“I actually didn’t even see that,” Williams said, “As soon as the game was over, I went to bed. I was actually at home in Akron and then I had to get up early to drive down for practice, so I went to bed right when the game was over and had sweet dreams.”


After the game, I saw Gruenebaum and equipment manager Rusty Wummel engage in a conversation centered around a pair of shorts. Gruenebaum tugged at the waistband and Wummel inspected the inside of the shorts. I wasn’t close enough to hear the conversation, but I was curious as to what that was all about.

It turns out that Gruenebaum encountered a problem where the drawstring area on the inside of his shorts became torn from within, meaning his shorts were loose even when fully tied. The Hebrew Hammer was at risk of de-pantsing himself in front of over 19,000 people.

“The entire second half, if I would have had to do a breakaway slide and smother the ball, my shorts would have been down around my ankles,” Gruenebaum said. “I want to stress that this is my only complaint about anything that adidas has ever done. I love adidas products. This drawstring problem is my only concern. It’s just a little something for the suggestion box.”

Gruenebaum then reiterated his love of adidas in the strangest of ways.

“I have an adidas tattoo,” he said. “I’m not going to tell you where.”

On April 27, everyone in Crew Stadium witnessed The Massive Scoreboard Fire of 2013, an event that will forever live in Crew lore. Nobody in attendance that day will ever forget the sight of flames and smoke pouring out the scoreboard, or the brave men and women of the Columbus Fire Department who even climbed into the charred wreckage to make sure the situation was safe and that the game could continue.

Knowing that Saturday’s crowd was going to be the biggest of the year thus far, the Crew felt it would be an opportune time to thank the Columbus Fire Department for their efforts on that surreal evening.

“It seems like the only time we recognize first responders is after some sort of tragedy like 9/11 or the Boston Marathon,” said Arica Kress, the Crew’s Senior Director of Marketing. “We felt that it would be nice to recognize them for the job they do every single day, not just after a terrible tragedy. Obviously, our scoreboard fire was a big deal to us, but the Columbus Fire Department put it out quickly and made sure everyone was safe. They did such a great job that we were even able to play the game that night. We were so grateful for their courage and skill, so we wanted to celebrate that in a situation that wasn’t a tragedy and where nobody got hurt. That way it could truly be about them and the amazing job that they do every single day.”

Earlier that evening, the Columbus Police Department and Columbus Fire Department played a game on the Crew Stadium field. Then right before kickoff, Crew legend Frankie Hejduk and Crew President and General Manager Mark McCullers presented personalized Crew jerseys in recognition of the following first responders to The Massive Scoreboard Fire of 2013:

Station 1 – Union Station Engine House: Ladder 1
Station 2 – Nance Fire Station: Rescue 2
Station 7 – Buckeye Fire Station: Engine 7
Station 13 – Old North Columbus Fire Station: Engine 13, Ladder 13, and Medic 13
Station 16 – Mock Orchard Fire Station: Engine 16 and Medic 16
Station 18 – South Linden Fire Station: Engine 18 and Medic 18.

On a night where the Fire won and Columbus lost, this photo is a good reminder of how often the opposite holds true.

Questions? Comments? Suddenly relieved that the Crew’s postgame fireworks show didn’t involve the launching of any b


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