COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus Crew begin their final season at Historic Crew Stadium on Sunday when they host Philadelphia at 5:30. Columbus has less than three months left inside the 21-year-old stadium before moving into their new arena district digs on July 3.
Columbus played its first game at Historic Crew Stadium on May 15, 1999 and plenty of great moments happened at the first-ever soccer specific stadium in the United States. Columbus Crew legend and brand ambassador Frankie Hejduk gave NBC4 his top 10 moments inside one of the most iconic soccer stadiums in North America.
***The Top 10 moments are in no particular order***
Formation of the Nordecke
The Nordecke was formed in 2008 following the construction of the permanent stage in the stadium’s north end, which led the Crew’s three primary supporter groups to come together in the northeast corner.
The chants, songs and excitement poured onto the field and it showed throughout the season culminating in Columbus’ 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire in the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, a win that put the Crew in their first-ever MLS Cup final.
Beating Chicago Fire en route to 1st MLS Cup
The Crew won the MLS Cup in Carson, California but the win before that went down at MAPFRE Stadium in front of a sold out crowd. Columbus came back from down 1-0 to beat their rival and secure their place in MLS history. Hejduk said he’ll never forget raising the Eastern Conference trophy in front of the Nordecke and climbing into the stands to have some beer with the fans who he calls the heart and soul of the Crew.
1st Game at Crew Stadium
The first game at Crew Stadium on May 15, 1999 marked a monumental day in soccer history — the first MLS game to take place in a soccer specific stadium in the United States. An overflow crowd of 24,741 was on hand to witness the historic day and see the Crew beat the Revolution 2-0, the first of many wins inside the confines of Historic Crew Stadium.
Drinking beer with fans
Frankie Hejduk is a fan favorite for many reasons, but maybe the biggest one is because he’s just like them. The main difference being his talent on the pitch. Frankie always found a way to be part of the Crew in every facet and that included drinking beer with fans on several occasions, including one time he got too many yellow cards in a season and was forced to miss a game. Instead of staying home, he decided to go to the parking lot and drink with the fans.
2020 MLS Cup
Hollywood could not have written a better script than ending the last full season at Crew Stadium right in Columbus’ back yard. The unprecedented 2020 season almost never happened due to the pandemic but they found a way to play the season ending in a matchup between perennial powerhouse Seattle and the underdog Crew. Columbus jumped all over the Sounders beating them soundly 3-0 to claim their second MLS Cup in franchise history and first inside then MAPFRE Stadium. Fewer than 3,000 fans were on hand to see it but no matter where fans watched, it felt like an appropriate end for the stadium.
Dos a Cero: USA versus Mexico
Hejduk said he remembers the United States first win against Mexico at Crew stadium for two reasons — the blistering cold and the fact that fans of the U.S. finally outnumbered fans of the Mexico squad. It was the first time of many in which the USMNT beat Mexico 2-0 in what fondly became known as “Dos a Cero.”
Rock on the Range and Flogging Molly concert
The first Rock on the Range was held on May 19, 2007 at Columbus Crew Stadium, nearly eight years to the day Columbus played its first game there. Hejduk said his favorite Rock on the Range was when Metallica came to play and hearing the song “One” in person. He also remembers playing a set in front of the home crowd.
In that same category, Flogging Molly held a concert inside Crew Stadium after one of their games, which Frankie points out they won and made the concert even better. Frankie said he remembers crowd surfing for the first time and did so no less than seven times during the show. Flogging Molly came back several times to perform for the Columbus faithful.
Circle of Honor Induction Ceremony
Created in 2011 in conjunction with the induction of Brian McBride, the Circle of Honor serves as the club’s highest honor and pays homage solely to its most iconic performers and personalities. Frankie was added to the Circle of Honor in 2014.
Frankie’s friend Scott Francis playing the National Anthem
This one is especially specific to Frankie. Brew master Scott Francis, who works at Temperance Row Brewing Company in Westerville, had a chance to play the National Anthem on request of his good friend, Frankie Hejduk. Francis played the anthem on guitar with another friend and Hejduk says that moment holds a special place in his heart.
Linden McKinley soccer team at MAPFRE
*Editor’s note from Justin Holbrock: This is my favorite of Frankie’s Top 10 simply because it shows how much soccer means to the Central Ohio community and vice versa.
Linden McKinley had not had a soccer team in 20 years but Frankie took it upon himself to get one started back up at the school. In three years, the Panthers went from winning two games their first season to making the playoffs for the first time in school history during the third season. This one is on Frankie’s list because the team got to play in an exhibition match inside Crew Stadium.
This grassroots effort shows soccer’s ability to be played by anyone, anywhere as long as long as an effort is made by community members to give kids an opportunity.