November 23rd is probably the biggest day in Columbus Crew history. That 2008 team was one of the best that MLS has seen. William Hesmer, Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall, Danny O'Rourke, Gino Padula, Eddie Gaven, Brian Carroll, Brad Evans, Robbie Rogers, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and Alejandro Moreno led a team that finished with a league high 57 points over a 30 game season.
The team has undergone a lot of changes since that day four years ago. Only Hesmer, Marshall, O'Rourke, and Gaven remain on the roster. Evans, Moreno, and Carroll ply their trade elsewhere in MLS. Rogers struggles to recapture the high that was the 2008 season. Age caught up with Hejduk, Padula, and Schelotto. It was a team that had a truly magnificent moment.
Looking back at that hazy day in the Home Depot Center, four years ago, here is my recap I wrote just after the win.
This was a game that was a statement on an outstanding season. The haze in LA lifted as the Nordecke entered the stadium, bathing the Home Depot Center in southern California sun. It was a signal of how the day would go for the Crew. 13 years of haze and clouds have been lifted by the best Crew team every, perhaps one of the best MLS teams ever.
Game Day started early. Galaxy supporters of the Angel City Brigade hosted Nordecke West, providing the keg, food, music, and good cheer starting at 9 AM. The scene was a party a full two hours before game time as seemingly thousands of Crew supporters descended on a tiny patch of parking lot concrete to join in on the fun. The owner himself, Mr. Clark Hunt was on hand to greet the fans as we walked towards the stadium.
The first half hour of the game left my stomach churning. It was probably caused in equal parts tailgate beer and sausage and the Crew's shaky performance. It was Schelotto who would settle the stomachs and nerves of Crew fans. He created a chance out of nothing, stripping Dave van den Berg on the sideline and sending a ball towards Moreno. Ale wasted no time getting behind Jimenez and beating a woefully out of position Cepero for a 1-0 lead.
Even with the lead, the Crew weren't safe after such an uneven first half showing. Dane Richards quickly showed his speed and skill. Just after halftime he lost Padula and slipped a ball into John Wolyniec who put it past Hesmer to tie the game. Things were not looking good as a poor first half was continued by giving up the equalizing goal.
Schelotto then lifted the Crew up again with his savvy and skill. His outstanding corner was met with an equally outstanding header by Chad Marshall. Less than two minutes later the Crew were in the lead and the Red Bulls were stunned. They had gone toe to toe with the champs and threw their best punch. Not only did Columbus not wobble, they launched a counterpunch that leveled the Red Bulls chances.
The only thing I can remember between Marshall's goal and the 70th minute was how time crawled along. I cannot remember time moving slower. Leave it to Schelotto to speed up time as well. He was instrumental in springing a couple of counterattacks. He then launched a 25 yard bomb past Cepero but hitting the crossbar. The Crew were going to win, Schelotto was willing it so.
Guille's final stroke of brilliance would happen in the 82nd minute. The Crew had pressed forward off of an Eddie Gaven dribble. Schelotto however ended up with the ball and proceeded to find Frankie Hejduk, coming at full speed, with a perfect chip. Hejduk's header would seal the victory with 10 minutes to spare. I could not imagine the Red Bulls coming back from one, let alone 2 goals down.
The dancing and cheering in the stands only intensified as the minutes wound down. Hugs and high fives were exchanged. As soon as the final whistle sounded, beer showers cooled everyone down as pandemonium erupted. A collection of veterans, rising stars, and underrated cogs had put together a legendary season. If it had to end, there could not be a better one. The Columbus Crew are MLS Cup Champions.