Remembering history: Hejduk's MLS Cup goal

Crew fans will never forget November 23, 2008.

On that date, the Black & Gold secured their first MLS Cup with a 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls, but the match was far tighter than the two-goal scoreline would otherwise indicate. The Crew took a one-goal lead in the 53rd minute and clung to it for the remainder of the contest. It was only in the 82nd minute that Columbus fans could breathe a little easier, as captain Frankie Hejduk notched a now-iconic insurance goal to all but seal the championship.

The play is perhaps the most famous in Crew history, and like so many goals, it began long before the ball actually found the back of the net. Guillermo Barros Schelotto won the ball in midfield and shot it up the pitch with a quick sliding pass. After a layoff to the left side, the Crew played a switching ball that began the entire process. You can actually see Alejandro Moreno calling for the aerial pass right here:

After receiving the ball, Moreno makes a run down the right side of the pitch. He tries to play it into the box for Eddie Gaven, but it's cut out and a scramble ensues. The Crew does an excellent job to recover possession, with Gaven spotting and playing a short ball backward for Schelotto, who has ranged upfield. Below, you can see the moment that Gaven gets on the ball and is in the process of laying it off for Schelotto.

Notice who's not in the shot? Hejduk, not yet visible to the television audience, sees exactly what you can see now: the convergence of Red Bulls around the ball and the pocket of space available to him down the right flank.

Below is the very moment that Schelotto receives the pass. You can see Hejduk is in the process of completing his run. Notice how he is the only player on either team in full motion at this very moment. The motion blur of Frankie's body compared to the static players around him makes it look almost edited in after-the-fact. That momentum makes it impossible for anyone on the Red Bulls to catch up with him. You also don't see many outside backs making a run like this, part of what makes the play so special.

Additionally, not enough credit can be given to Schelotto for the pass he is about to make. Perhaps it is because Hejduk darted into his line of sight with a rush of speed, but Schelotto somehow spots him and plays the famous chipped ball nearly instantaneously.

The play is not complete before one final bit of genius from Hejduk. As the ball is in the air, Frankie reacts to it and knows that although he is in the clear with the defense, goalkeeper Danny Cepero is likely to read it as well and charge out to help cover for his lack of help. Thus, Hejduk knows that won't have time to bring it down. Because the 'keeper is charging, a chipped header is likely to get the job done, and Hejduk completes the play.

The rest is history, of course, and a gigantic piece of Crew history at that. All-told, a beautiful goal and one that featured two world-class plays from both Hejduk to recognize the situation, make the run and finish, along with Schelotto to make the pass. Frankie Hejduk has meant a lot to the Columbus Crew, and when he is officially inducted into the club's Circle of Honor this Saturday, this play will surely come to the minds of those who watched his massive career in Black & Gold.


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