The 2019 season was one big emotional roller coaster for Columbus Crew SC. There were happy times, there were sad times and moments where fans likely looked at their neighbor in the stands and said some things that are not safe for work.
These moments, more than likely, best describe the season that almost didn’t happen. Let’s take a look back at some of the worst moments from this season first, just to get the bad time out of the way.
2019 Worst Moments
The loss of Milton Valenzuela and Federico Higuain
At the beginning of the season, Columbus knew the team would be without left back Milton Valenzuela due to an ACL injury suffered in the preseason. Later in the year, tgee Crew lost playmaker Federico Higuain, also to ACL reconstruction. The 34-year-old midfielder was sidelined back in May after he was injured in the Black & Gold’s 3-2 road loss to the Colorado Rapids. With the absence of Higuain, Pedro Santos took on the No. 10 position. Santos did well there but Columbus was not the same without Higuain and certainly missed Valenzuela.
Ted Unkel denies Pedro Santos’ goal against D.C. United
The Crew were rolling at the beginning of the season. Going into the match against D.C. United at Audi Field, the Black & Gold were sitting at a 4-4-1 record and nearing the top of the Eastern Conference. In the first half, Pedro Santos looked to have opened the scoring for Columbus. Referee Ted Unkel got word that there was a “foul” in the buildup to the goal.
At midfield, Luciano Acosta, captain Will Trapp and Unkel collided. After review, the goal was called back due to the foul on Trapp. However, upon multiple replays, Unkel collided into Acosta, causing the United forward to fall to the ground, and Columbus gained possession en route to what should have been the game’s first goal.
After the stoppage, United found the opening tally and secured the 3-1 win, sweeping the Black & Gold for the season series. Had the goal stood, Columbus would have potentially broken a four-game winless streak, and ended one of the worst streaks in club history.
Farewell, Zack Steffen
During the 2018 MLS offseason, the Crew agreed on negotiations with Manchester City to send the star goalkeeper to England in July.
Steffen signed with Columbus in 2016 along with Nicolai Næss. Steffen gained the starting role in 2017 after Columbus parted ways with Steve Clark following the 2016 season. The Pennsylvania native helped Columbus advance to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year starting, blanking Atlanta United on penalty kicks in the team’s home stadium.
In 2018, Steffen helped Columbus reach the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Red Bulls, where they were eliminated. Steffen then signed with Manchester City in December of 2018, but couldn’t be officially on the roster until the summer window opened in July.
Steffen played his last match in a Crew uniform against New York City FC on June 1, 2019.
The departure of Federico Higuain
To begin the offseason, the club announced its roster decisions for the 2020 season. While several key players were picked to come back, a number of players’ options were declined, including Federico Higuain. The 35-year old midfielder was ruled out in the middle of the year with an injury. Taken into consideration, the club decided to move on without the maestro.
After eight seasons with the club, the Crew now has to move on to life without Higuain and find a new playmaker in the middle of the field.
So now that I’ve ripped out your heart, can I put it back together with the best moments of the 2019 season?
2019 Best Moments
The Season Itself
This year was not supposed to happen. But it did. Thanks in large part to the fans that created the Save The Crew movement, the Black & Gold did not move to Austin, Texas, as Anthony Precourt hoped, and instead remained in Columbus under new, dare we say better, ownership.
They said that it would never be done, and yet now the Black & Gold will have many home openers for years to come.
Beating FC Cincinnati in the Queen City
In 2017, Columbus first met FC Cincinnati in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The two teams then met this year with Cincinnati now in MLS and a member of the Eastern Conference. The Crew and FCC played to a 2-2 draw in Columbus on Aug. 10 and 15 days later, met at Nippert Stadium for the second game of the season.
Columbus took it upon themselves to let the little brother know who runs the state of Ohio, defeating the Orange and Blue 3-1. Gyasi Zardes’ brace helped lift the Crew in the Hell Is Real derby in front of a sellout crowd along with over 2,000-plus visiting fans sporting the Black & Gold.
New Downtown Stadium
When the Edwards and Haslam families took over the reigns at the beginning of the year, one promise that was made was that there would be a new downtown stadium built for the club. That promise came to fruition.
The club held its groundbreaking on Oct. 10, with over 4,000 fans in attendance. The stadium will be located on the 600 block of W. Nationwide Boulevard, occupying the empty lot just behind Huntington Park.
This is a dream come true for the Crew and the city itself. Not only did the team get saved from relocation to Austin, Texas but they will have one of the best stadiums in the league, which is slated to open in the summer of 2021.
So there you have it, the best and worst moments of 2019. Did you have any that stood out to you either way? Let us know in the comments below.