It was a goal 21 years and 121 days in the making. In the 73rd minute of a 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus Crew SC’s homegrown captain, Wil Trapp, dumped a ball into the left channel for Waylon Francis. A driven cross from Francis found the foot of Justin Meram, who first-timed the ball into the back of the net for the 1,000th goal in Columbus Crew SC history.
“Wil with a great ball to Waylon, who is really good at serving that last ball as you have seen in years past,” Meram said when recounting the historic tally. “Then my [butt] gets in the box and puts it away with a one-touch finish.”
“It was a great goal,” said Trapp, who earned a secondary assist on the play. “It’s a pretty picturesque goal under [Sporting Director and Head Coach] Gregg Berhalter, so it’s a fitting goal. A thousand goals. That’s a lot to think about. I’m fortunate to have a role in that.”
The thing is, Meram had no idea what he had accomplished at the moment he accomplished it. Well, he knew in the immediate sense that he had given his team a late lead against a traditional rival. But the historic aspect of the goal was totally lost on him at the time.
“No idea,” Meram said. “I didn’t even know until I got to the locker room. It’s pretty cool to score the thousandth goal in club history.”
There was a public address announcement celebrating the thousandth goal, but Meram didn’t hear it. And that made him one of the fortunate ones. Teammate Josh Williams only caught a snippet of the announcement, which was made shortly after Ola Kamara had already made it 3-1, and it left Williams completely baffled on the field.
“Actually, this is hilarious,” Williams said. “This was one of those where I just heard the end of it, and I knew Justin didn’t have a thousand, but they announced it after Ola scored, so I thought it was like Ola’s thousandth goal of his career. But then I was like, ‘Wait a minute, how is that even possible?’ I think I asked Jona (Jonathan Mensah) or Lalas (Abubakar), ‘What did they just say?’ In my head, I was like, ‘Man, that’s a lot of goals for this guy!’ I barely heard it, and I thought it was his thousandth goal and I just kept thinking, ‘That CANNOT be possible! There’s NO WAY this guy has scored a thousand goals!’”
Williams finally got clarity after the game courtesy of Trapp.
“I heard Wil mention it in the locker room, but Justin wasn’t in there yet. He was doing his victory lap around the field, so I don’t know when he found out. It was something the guys were talking about in the locker room afterward though. It’s a pretty wild stat, a thousand goals. It was cool to be a part of it.”
For Berhalter, the milestone underscored the Black & Gold’s place in the annals of Major League Soccer.
“It’s great,” Berhalter said. “I think you take for granted what Columbus Crew SC means to this league and its history. To get the 1,000th goal is special. This is a special club. I think the fans have been there from day one and it’s nice to get that 1,000th goal.”
Columbus is now the fifth club in MLS history to reach the 1,000-goal milestone. Here’s how those rankings look through the completion of this weekend’s matches:
- LA Galaxy 1,093
- D.C. United 1,033
- New York 1,032
- Dallas 1,013
- Columbus 1,001
With the likes of Stern John, Brian McBride, and Jeff Cunningham, 1998 was the biggest contributor on the road to 1,000 with 67 goals. 2006 was the stingiest contributor, with just 30 goals.
Of the 122 players to ever score for Crew SC in league play over the past two-plus decades, more than 50 percent of the goals (503 total) have been scored by just THIRTEEN players! They are as follows: Jeff Cunningham, Brian McBride, Federico Higuain, Stern John, Edson Buddle, Eddie Gaven, Justin Meram, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Kei Kamara, Ethan Finlay, Dante Washington, Ola Kamara, and Brian Maisonneuve.
At the other end of the spectrum, 42 players have scored exactly one goal. Most notably, goalkeeper William Hesmer is among them.
On the road to a thousand, Hesmer is also one of four players to score his jersey number in terms of career Columbus goals:
Robert Warzycha — 19
Todd Yeagley — 6
Thomas Dooley — 5
William Hesmer — 1
Meram’s goal was his career-best 10th of the season, meaning when he scored the thousandth goal, his in-progress 2017 campaign was precisely 1 percent of that milestone. That’s some satisfying symmetry.
Thanks to the ever-helpful Rick Lawes at MLS HQ and the fine folks at Elias Sports Bureau, I have some other tidbits to pass along.
Of the 1,001 goals Columbus has now scored, 579 have come at home and 422 on the road. Of the home goals, 411 have come at MAPFRE Stadium and 168 at Ohio Stadium. In terms of road goals, the formerly jinxed, soon-to-be-junked relic known as RFK Stadium in D.C. has seen 45 Columbus goals. Gillette Stadium in New England has seen 34 goals, followed by Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City with 27 goals.
The most goals Columbus has scored against any particular opponent is 107 against New England. This is followed by 95 against D.C. United and now 91 against Chicago.
Columbus has scored 86 penalty kick goals (on 109 attempts) and has received 16 own goals. (It was 85-for-108 on the penalties at the actual 1,000 milestone. Ola Kamara converted a penalty for goal 1,001.)
And lastly, here’s something amazing — with Ola Kamara’s brace in Utah a few weeks back, there is now a three-way tie for the goalkeeper most often beaten by the Black & Gold. What are the odds that in the midst of the 22nd season and over 1,000 goals, three goalkeepers would be tied at the top of this list? Matt Reis, Joe Cannon, and now Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando have each allowed 44 goals to Columbus. Had Columbus beaten Kevin Hartman just one more time, there would be a four-way tie at the top. He had conceded 43 goals to the Black & Gold.