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Crew Stadium Moment No. 9: The Legends Game

It was a day of celebration that included a friendly to remember.

Crew legends applaud the supporters in attendance, post-match.
Thomas Costello

Massive Report continues the countdown of the 15 most memorable moments in Crew Stadium history based on voting from the staff. Join the discussion on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #MRStadium.

Not all of the memories on Massive Report’s list of top moments from historic Crew Stadium’s history are memorable because of a hard-fought victory or a crazy finish. This one isn’t about the Oct. 28, 2018, late game-winning goal that propelled Columbus into the MLS Cup playoffs or a hat trick by forward Gyasi Zardes. It didn’t even happen in the stadium.

On that late October afternoon, a group of 13 Columbus Crew legends descended upon a small patch of grass next to the stadium’s neighboring Ohio History Connection. What followed was a special experience for the few hundred Crew supporters in attendance.

Legends matches are a normal occurrence in other countries. Global teams like Real Madrid, Liverpool FC and Manchester United play host to these games for charity in their stadiums or to honor a former player whose career is coming to an end. The Black & Gold’s version was not club sponsored. It was an extension of the Save The Crew movement that fought to keep the team in Columbus where supporters and former players shared a common goal of celebrating the club’s history in the only way they knew how – their own way.

The match had a special connection to the movement because it came prior to the first home game after the Oct. 12 announcement that the team was saved. Technically, since the legends match came first, it was the first home match post announcement.

Just two days after that fateful day, Save The Crew announced the first three participants to take part in the Legends game: forward Dante Washington, midfielder and 2002 MLS Rookie of the Year Kyle Martino and the first draft pick in MLS history, forward Brian McBride.

On the morning of the match, team captains Washington and Martino, along with their squads, put on an exhibition for the ages. Team Martino consisted of McBride, another draft pick of the 1996 MLS Draft midfielder Billy Thompson, goalkeeper Juergen Sommer, defender Chris Wingert, defender/midfielder John DeBrito and defender Mike Clark. Team Washington featured forward Edson Buddle, midfielder Rob Smith, midfielder Jason Farrell and a duo of goalkeepers in Tom Presthus and David Winner.

Although all the players came in with position titles from their professional days, those formally disappeared when the whistle blew. What followed were trick plays — some of them successful — nutmegs and a good-natured celebration of all things that make the game great on a small, bumpy “pitch” in the shadow of historic Crew Stadium.

Team Martino converted a successful free kick with a Disney-moviesque trick play that looked more appropriate in a Mighty Ducks of soccer.

At one point, there was a mid-match trade that saw Presthus taking a penalty kick against Washington. Yes, you read that correctly. Winner passed the gloves off to Washington to stop the shot. Presthus did his best Washington impression and buried it past the forward/keeper.

These were just two of many plays that highlighted the match. The result was a lot of happy supporters and Crew legends. After the game, the players took a lap around the field, posing with supporters for photos, giving high fives. Then they headed to a makeshift autograph alley, a line of tables and tents set up for supporters to meet and talk with their Crew heroes and snag an autograph or two.

Columbus legends then moved the party to the stadium parking lot. Tailgaters took part in a trunk or treat event, also put on by Save The Crew and Team Washington and Team Martino joined future owner Dr. Pete Edwards and Crew supporters in an alumni tailgate.

The Black & Gold didn’t complete their goal of winning the 2018 MLS Cup. The Crew lost in the conference semifinal against the New York Red Bulls before Atlanta United won it all. For supporters in Columbus, saving the Crew and celebrating with former players that stood by them when they were needed the most was a great consolation prize. It didn’t take long, however for the team’s new owners — Edwards and the Haslem family — to win a cup of their own.

Read Massive Report’s previous Crew Stadium Moments

No. 10: Landon Donovan, Earthquakes win first MLS Cup

No. 11: The 2002 U.S. Open Cup championship

No. 12: Wil Trapp’s miracle game winner

No. 13: The scoreboard fire

No. 14: 2005 MLS All-Star Game

No. 15: The first game after Kirk Urso’s passing