When Columbus Crew SC revealed the historic stadium naming rights deal with MAPFRE Insurance, one nagging doubt gnawed at the superstitious—would the name change to MAPFRE Stadium mess up the Dos A Cero mojo associated with this beloved American soccer landmark?
The answer, in a hashtag: #LOLTFC.
Crew SC christened the MAPFRE Stadium era by beating Toronto FC by that most treasured of scorelines, 2-0. It’s that same wonderful score that opened the stadium on May 15, 1999, when Columbus topped New England. And, of course, it is the legendary score of every U.S.-Mexico World Cup Qualifying showdown ever held there.
Since Crew SC strives to be authentically Columbus, what could be more authentically Columbus than hosting a foreign rival and beating them 2-0?
Nothing. That’s what.
So in the end, Estadio Dos A Cero may have a new official name in MAPFRE Stadium, but early returns suggest that the mojo remains intact. New name, same score.
Surely Gahanna native Wil Trapp was as psyched as I was by this development.
“It never crossed my mind,” said Trapp, whose brain was apparently distracted by the act of playing 90 minutes in a professional soccer match. “But now that you mention it, it’s pretty cool that it happened.”
It sure was.
In 2014, Justin Meram became famous for scoring on curling shots that assistant coach Josh Wolff nicknamed “The Meathook.” On Saturday night, there were no Meram Meathooks. He still got on the scoresheet, however. Meram ran onto an Ethan Finlay cross in the 57th minute and buried a perfect header. I could call it the Meram Meathead, but that just makes him sound like one of the cable-having Rob Lowes. Ooh, how about if that goal is the Meram Meethead, since the ball met his head? Hooray for homophones!
Anyway, the precision power-header is not what immediately leaps to mind when one contemplates Meram’s considerable skillset. Where did that come from?
“He’s been watching me play,” volunteered teammate Kei Kamara.
Meram revealed that watching Kamara’s headed shots allowed him to take necessary corrective action with his own technique, replying, “I’ve been watching Kei head it over a few times, so I had to knock it down.”
All joking aside, Meram said he took advantage of Kamara’s defender-dragging burst in the box, which opened up the space for him.
“The focus is just getting in the box,” Meram said. “Kei’s a big presence and he’s going to bring a lot of defenders with him so I’ve got to really get up and down and make sure I can get the back end of it. Ethan played an incredible ball and I was fortunate to get a head on it.”
Kamara was happy that Meram broke through after three scoreless halves from the Black & Gold. It was all the team needed.
“First goal of the season sets the tempo for the season,” Kamara said. “You believe that you can score goals now. All we have to do now is believe in ourselves. People say, ‘Kei, you don’t score. You don’t score.’ But Justin can score. Ethan can score. Anybody on this team can score, which is great because it takes the pressure off of a single player.”
Four minutes after Meram set the tempo, Kamara doubled the Crew’s lead in the 61st minute when he knocked home a cross from Waylon Francis. What followed was the stuff of legend. Kamara hurdled the sign boards, grabbed three yellow construction hats, and recreated the original Crew logo with two surprised accomplices.
“Come on!” Kamara said afterward. “I had to bring something out. I had been planning that. It was just great. I was so happy to get a goal when I had that planned. I had it planned for a home game, not an away game. (Laughs). To do it here in the stadium and in front of our crowd was everything. I just hope they loved it. You’ve got to pay respect to the old Crew and the old logo and all that. I know it’s a new Crew now, but, you know, pay respect to that one.”
“It was great,” said midfielder Ethan Finlay. “It was a nice little testament to the old Crew. I don’t know that I’d do it again—I think it’s a one and done—but it was great that he got his goal tonight and gave a last goodbye to the Crew guys.”
It seems Kamara wasn’t shy about sharing his plans beforehand.
“He told me about it ahead of time,” Trapp said. “I didn’t get over there fast enough to snag a hardhat, but it was pretty good. He actually didn’t want anyone else to get a yellow card if we were going to do it as a team, so he spared us that. I don’t think he actually got a yellow card for it anyway, so it was perfect.”
Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter didn’t see the celebration as it happened, but he quickly heard about it.
“That’s funny,” he said. “That’s Kei. He has a big personality.”
Finally, when I posed the question of Kamara’s celebration to Justin Meram, he made history.
“No comment,” he said with a shake of his head.
Meram then paused and appeared to be forming a thought. He opened his mouth to articulate it.
“No comment,” he said.
He then shook his head a couple more times.
“No comment,” he added.
Just to be clear, did one question about Kei’s celebration just earn a triple no-comment?
“A triple no comment,” he confirmed, then shook his head one last time and walked out the door.
That means I have now personally witnessed two incredible sports rarities: an unassisted triple play (Asdrubal Cabrera, May 12, 2008) and an unassisted triple no-comment (Justin Meram, March 14, 2015.)
The fine folks at TIFOSWEAT poured their blood, sweat, and beers into another wonderful creation. Right before kickoff, they unfurled a huge banner in the Nordecke that read, “First team in MLS. Built, not bought.” The left side of the banner featured the old Crew hardhat logo and the first draft pick in MLS history, Brian McBride. The right side of the banner featured the new Crew SC badge and homegrown star Wil Trapp.
Toronto’s lineup included imported stars like Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco, and Jozy Altidore, who command millions and millions of dollars per season. Of course, Toronto used the same approach last season and beat Columbus in all three meetings, including twice in Ohio. Then again, the Black & Gold spotted them nine points and still made the playoffs while Toronto was on the outside looking in, which was one of the most #LOLTFC things ever.
Still, after last year’s sweep, Columbus was happy to set a different tone in 2015.
“I think last year was extremely frustrating, not only to lose the Trillium Cup, but to lose three straight to them,” said winger Ethan Finlay. “Tonight was our first effort to bring the cup back to Columbus. I think that is a team that we’re going to be battling with all year, not only in the next two games in the Trillium Cup, but also in the playoff race come October.”
“We showed our killer instinct, which was something we really stressed before the game,” added built-not-bought-tifo-example Wil Trapp. “At home, we’re the aggressors and we need to take the game to them. We got the first one and we weren’t satisfied with that, so we stepped on their throats and got the second one. It was important to us… It’s a message to the league that on any given day, we can beat anyone, regardless of what players are on the field. It was great to see. When we play well, we are very, very, very hard to beat.”
Kamara on his first game as a home player at MAPFRE Stadium since 2007:
“It felt really, really good. The last time I was here I probably got booed and called ‘Columbus reject,’ but now to put on the black and gold, for me it felt really, really good. I didn’t expect that many people out and it was amazing to have that many people out and to really give them three points and a couple goals to celebrate. That definitely makes them keep coming to the stadium.”
Saturday night marked the 250th regular season MLS match at MAPFRE Stadium. It was the 27th time that Crew SC honored the stadium’s forte with a 2-0 victory. That’s 10.8% of all regular season matches. (There have also been two in the playoffs, two in CONCACAF competition, and one in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.)
This most recent dose of Dos A Cero was one for the record books. Toronto FC took the all-time lead in Dos A Cero defeats at MAPFRE Stadium, suffering their fifth loss by that legendary score. They had previously been tied with Mexico and Real Salt Lake. For RSL, it’s been three MLS games and one Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game. For Mexico, it’s been every single time they’ve dared to set foot in the place.
For fun, I put together a little chart chronicling all 27 Dos A Ceros during regular season play. Feast your eyes upon who scored the Uno, who scored the Dos, and who backstopped the Cero.
- 32 players have scored goals and eight goalkeepers have kept the sheet clean.
- Jeff Cunningham, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Eddie Gaven, and Federico Higuain have scored the most Dos A Cero goals, with five apiece. What a group that is! No other player has more than two.
- Oddly, those four players have done it three different ways: Cunningham and Gaven in five different games, Schelotto in four, Higuain in three. That’s because sometimes a player provides both the Uno and the Dos.
- Higuain is the only player to provide the Uno and the Dos on two separate occasions. Three players have accomplished the feat once: Schelotto, Frankie Hejduk, and…. Knox Cameron? Yup. Knox Cameron. Not Jeff Cunningham. Not Brian McBride. Not Dante Washington. Not Edson Buddle. Not Stern John. Knox Cameron, who scored half of his career goals in a single Dos A Cero against Kansas City on July 23, 2005.
- On Saturday, Meram became one of six players with two career Dos A Cero goals, joining Dante Washington, Edson Buddle, Frankie Hejduk, Knox Cameron, and Ethan Finlay.
- William Hesmer is the all-time leader with nine Dos A Cero shutouts. Jon Busch is second with four. Steve Clark has moved into a four-way tie for third with three, joining Matt Lampson, Andy Gruenebaum, and Mark Dougherty.
- Only six current MLS teams have never been Dos A Cero’d at MAPFRE Stadium: Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, Philadelphia, Orlando, and New York City. (Obviously, as expansion teams, the latter two have never even played a game here yet.)
- 2010 and 2013 are tied for the most Dos A Ceros, with three. Only 2001 and 2006 didn’t have any. (Then again, 2001 was all about the first true Dos A Cero on February 28 of that year. The Red, White & Blue meant no Dos A Cero was necessary from the Black & Gold. 2006 has no excuse other than the worst team in club history.)
- Crew SC is on pace for 17 Dos A Ceros at MAPFRE Stadium in 2015. I hope I didn’t jinx them. If they fall short of that mark, I guess we’ll know why.
There is so much “New Crew” momentum right now. There’s a fun and exciting team under Berhalter, the terrific new badge, great new uniforms (the yellow version of which Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl correctly declared to be the best in MLS history), the stadium naming rights deal with MAPFRE, a slew of new locally-based food and beverage options at the stadium, and on and on it goes. The Crew SC organization is working hard on the club’s present and future, both on and off the field, and their efforts are already paying ample dividends.
A change in branding, attitude, and ethos is a major undertaking, and you only get one chance to make that new impression. 2015 is going to be that kind of year. In the blitz of all the newness, it may seem like that is all that matters. But it’s not. Columbus Crew SC is a club with a proud and storied history. That history has not, and will not, be swept aside and forgotten.
2015 may be about the “New Crew,” but when making new updates to MAPFRE Stadium, Crew SC still opted to honor its past. Instead of concourse banners promoting current players, each section entrance on the lower level is adorned with new banners recognizing events and achievements from the club’s first two decades. It’s both pleasing and useful to see a Robin Fraser defender of the year banner, or a Kyle Martino rookie of the year banner, or a Brad Friedel goalkeeper of the year banner, or a Stern John golden boot banner, and so on. Every one of those banners around the stadium is a happy memory for the longtime faithful or a learning opportunity for the new and curious.
I’m glad the club is striving to add some exciting new chapters to our story. After all, each new season soon goes into the history books. Today’s newness is tomorrow’s reminiscence. How we treat our history is ultimately how we treat ourselves.
As someone who passionately cares about the history of this club and all of the people who have built that history along the way, I’m excited for the new chapter being written in 2015, and I’m also glad that Kei Kamara used a goofy goal celebration to show some respect for the club’s tradition and to all who came before. (I guess, technically, including himself, since he played here in 2006 and 2007.)
Since he saluted the old school Crew, I thought it would be fun to reach out to some alumni to get their thoughts on Kamara’s already-legendary tribute.
Although he’s the least old school of the bunch, let’s start with Kei’s good friend Dominic Oduro (2013-2014), who not only led the Black & Gold with 13 goals in 2013, but also celebrated one of those goals by eating a slice of Papa John’s pizza, a clip of which was shown on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Kamara’s goal celebration is surely the most memorable since Papa Dom’s.
“Just for the record, my celebration was epic. Next to none. Haha.” Oduro wrote in an e-mail. “Kei told me he was going to make the old Crew cap celebration happen and I was all in and happy for him. We all know Kei and fo sho he's going to have tons of goal celebrations under his sleeves. Now the question is can he surpass this one.”
Let’s hope we get many more chances to find out. In the meantime, here are some more alumni reactions to Kamara’s throwback celebration:
Brian Maisonneuve (1996-2004): “I did see it and I loved it. I think it’s great that the league has been around for so long now that each club is starting to have its own history and traditions. And from an old man, it’s pretty cool to have been a part of the start of the league.”
Alejandro Moreno (2007-2009): “I actually had the celebration featured in my ‘MLS You Know It, You Love It! Awards’ segment on ESPNFC last night. For me, the hard hat Crew logo…it's been part of defining moments of my career, culminating in MLS Cup in 2008.”
Andy Gruenebaum (2006-2013): “As always, Kei seems to lack confidence. (Sarcasm.) I give it an 8/10 for creativity, an 8/10 for execution and an 8/10 for entertainment. It tickled me, and although fart jokes still make me giggle, I enjoyed it.”
William Hesmer (2007-2012): “I thought it was a great tribute to the old Crew. I am happy Kei took a timely moment to recognize the tremendous history and success of the club.”
Mike Clark (1996-2003): “First of all, (heck) yeah I saw the celebration! What a great goal and overall great match. Seeing that celebration on the 20th home opener brought back a plethora of memories. Not only did it reinforce the fact that I'm getting old, but it also reinforced the fact that I was so fortunate to be a small part of what is known now throughout the world as Crew Nation. Earlier in the day there was a tweet showing the starting 11 of the first home opener. I thought I was looking at my 15-year-old son in that picture. It was pretty funny. But, in all seriousness, it was pretty cool that Kei honored the Crew's roots by celebrating the way he did….especially at a time where the club looks pretty (darn) good, on and off the field. It’s going to be an exciting year for Crew fans!”
Duncan Oughton (2001-2010): “I thought it was MASSIVE! Made me proud of him for keeping the roots of the club alive and well. [I then told him Gbaum rated the celebration in three categories. Duncan played along.] Creativity: 10/10. First to do it, and his first-year preseason roommate is proud. Execution: 8/10. It took some shuffling and he could have had better models. Entertainment: 10/10. They beat TFC. ‘Nuff said!”
Frankie Hejduk (2003-2010): “Absolutely brilliant. Giving a little bit of respect to the old logo. Maybe a little bit of a sendoff to the old logo. I actually talked to him about it before the game, so I think he knew he was going to score. He was that confident. He said, ‘Hey man, can you help me out with this?’ You know I’m always buzzing around the stadium, so I was like, ‘Yeah, dude, if I’m around, I’ll do it with you.’ He was very confident in the fact that he was going to score tonight and I think he wanted to pay tribute to the old school Crew.”
So wait….this already legendary celebration could have possibly had Frankie as one of the hardhat dudes?
“I was going to be one of the hardhat dudes, but I wasn’t there when he scored. Kei’s my type of dude. He’s an upper. He wants to have fun with the fans at the stadium. To do that kind of stuff, I think is cool.”
It was a special moment for sure. Crew SC and old school Crew, melded together in one awesome celebration. Respect and honor the past. Build toward the future. That way, the future becomes another Massive chapter in our Massive history. (Rinse and repeat year after year for infinity times infinity.)
Excerpt from a postgame chat…
FH: “Dude, to be honest, what a great crowd. People were like, ‘It’s too cold or it’s too this or too that’, but man, the soccer gods opened up the skies for us. It was sunny, it was like 69—“
SS: “—It was 54 at kickoff.”
FH: “Yeah, but if felt like 69.”
Kamara’s goal was his first for Crew SC since June 30, 2007, when he scored the lone goal in a victory over the New York Red Bulls. On Sunday morning, I was going to calculate how many days it was between Kamara’s Columbus goals, but my longtime friend and fellow Crew SC history/numbers nerd Matt Bernhardt (@bernhardtsoccer) had already done the math and posted it on Twitter: 2,814 days. It eclipsed Jeff Cunningham’s previous record of 2,451 days between Crew SC goals.
Before I could even try to wrap my head around the context of the span between Kamara’s Columbus tallies, Bernhardt followed up with an astounding fact: There have been only six Crew SC careers that have lasted longer in elapsed time than Kamara’s goal gap. That counts all competitions and it simply counts the difference between a player’s first and last appearance in Black & Gold, regardless of whether they played anywhere else in between. It is simply first cheer to last cheer.
Bernhardt was kind enough to share his data for inclusion. If you follow him at @bernhardtsoccer, you will get to learn about interesting historical tidbits like this.
Most Days Elapsed Between First and Last Crew SC Appearance (All Competitions):
a= active player. b= active Crew SC player. c= multiple tenures with Crew SC
1. Jeff Cunningham (c): 4,960 days. (First: 3/29/98. Last: 10/27/11.)
2. Chad Marshall (a): 3,479 days. (First: 4/17/04. Last: 10/27/2013.)
3. Duncan Oughton: 3,449 days. (First: 5/12/01. Last: 10/21/10.)
4. Kei Kamara (b, c): 3,269 days. (First: 4/1/06. Most recent: 3/14/15.)
5. Brian Maisonneuve: 3,101 days. (First: 4/13/96. Last: 10/9/04)
6. Dante Washington (c): 3,025 days. (First: 7/20/96. Last: 10/31/2004.)
===Kamara’s 2,814 day scoring gap===
7. Frankie Hejduk: 2,791 days. (First: 3/16/03. Last: 11/6/10.)
8. Mike Clark: 2,751 days. (First: 4/13/96. Last: 10/26/03.)
(tie) Brian McBride: 2,751 days. (First: 4/13/96. Last: 10/26/03.)
10. Andy Gruenebaum: 2,717 days. (First: 5/20/06. Last: 10/27/13.)
11. Eddie Gaven: 2,614 days. (First: 4/1/06. Last: 5/29/13.)
===Cunningham’s 2,451 day scoring gap===
12. Danny O’Rourke (a): 2,345 days. (First: 4/7/07. Last: 9/7/13.)
If you want to take it one step further and say uninterrupted Crew SC tenures, Kamara’s goal gap is exceeded only by the entire Crew SC playing careers of Chad Marshall, Duncan Oughton, and Brian Maisonneuve.
Before heading for home, I asked Hejduk for his closing thoughts on another glorious Crewsmas Night.
“It was great atmosphere and good times,” he said. “It was a more than energetic crowd tonight. And the Nordecke had been in hibernation for three months and they friggin’ brought it, man. That’s what happens when you bring it, dude. The team wins. I think the team fed off of not only the Nordecke, but the entire stadium’s atmosphere. You can feel that buzz, man. There was a cool buzz.
“You could feel the buzz from our soccer. We played some great soccer. And think about it dude, last week they (Toronto) crushed a team 3-1 on the road with the time difference. This is a team that we’re going to battle with and it’s one of our rivals and now we’re up on them and the Trillium Cup is slowly leaning in our favor.
“At the end of the day, it was a (bleeping) good game and I think the fans brought it. I think the stadium brought it.”
Merry Crewsmas to all, and to all a great season.
Questions? Comments? As disappointed as I was when Meram’s shot hit the crossbar, meaning people couldn’t say, “Goal! Goal! Goal! Merrrrrrrry Crewsmas!”? Feel free to write at firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @stevesirk.
Steve Sirk’s latest book, “Kirk Urso: Forever Massive”, is available at the Crew Gear store or by ordering online HERE. All proceeds go to the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund for congenital heart defect research.