There won’t be any Columbus Crew SC players on the field for the U.S. Men’s National Team on Friday night in a rivalry game against Mexico, but that doesn’t mean the Black & Gold’s presence isn’t felt.
Yes, the game is at MAPFRE Stadium once again, the home of Crew SC and ‘Dos a Cero,’ but that’s not as far as it goes.
U.S. head coach Jürgen Klinsmann invited Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter, assistant coach Josh Wolff and brand ambassador Frankie Hejduk to speak to the team to brace the players for what they’re going to face in this match.
“They were just able to tell us about the history a little bit and their own experiences,” midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said of the meeting. “And I think that really resonated with the young players especially, the guys who haven’t been a part of this yet.”
The three have a combined for 181 caps and 16 goals for the national team. Wolff was a part of the first ‘Dos a Cero’ match in 2001, playing a pivotal role with his goal and assist. Berhalter and Hejduk were both members of the 2005 U.S. team that won 2-0 over El Tri at MAPFRE, while Hejduk returned with the Stars and Stripes in 2009.
“Frankie gave a good speech,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. “He’s obviously very positive and gave a good history lesson to guys who haven’t been here before. That was pretty awesome. That was a good moment for the team I think to look back on what we have done in the past that has made us successful and I think the young guys really enjoyed that.”
Very positive is putting Hejduk lightly and Crew SC fans know that better than anyone. The national team learned this when he spoke to them.
“He got me pumped up,” Bedoya said. “This guy has an energy level that’s hard to explain, but it’s awesome. I wish I had half the energy that he had.
“He even did a cartwheel after he got done talking. I don’t know how many espresso shots he had, but Frankie’s quite the character and it was awesome to hear from him.”
It seems like only yesterday that Wolff checked in for Brian McBride and the U.S. won 2-0 over Mexico, but it’s been almost 16 years. A lot has happened since that night and former players like Berhalter, Wolff and Hejduk are able to remind these players, especially the young ones, what this game means.
“I think it’s awesome to see how loose they were with us too,” Bedoya said. I think that’s the most important thing somebody can pass on to the young guys that there are going to be nerves and everything, but at the end of the day it’s just to express yourself on the field and hopefully get the W.”