2000 Club by Club
MLS's fifth year arrived with an array of new looks instituted by new MLS Commissioner Don Garber. The most significant - and most hailed – changes were the elimination of both the shootout and the game clock that counted down from 45 minutes.
For the first time in 2000, MLS games could end in ties and official match time was kept on the field by the referee, bringing the league's rules more in line with the rest of the world. Realignment created three four-team divisions, replacing the two six-team conferences, and "MLS ExtraTime," ESPN2's weekly news and highlights program, debuted.
Columbus opened the season with many familiar faces, along with a few new ones. Defenders/midfielders Mike Duhaney [the 1997 MLS Rookie of the Year, acquired in a trade from the MetroStars for Thomas Dooley] and Mario Gori, a member of D.C. United's 1996 and 1997 MLS Cup championship squads joined the fold and veteran forward Dante Washington returned to Columbus after a three-game stint in 1996.
All Washington did was put together one of the best offensive seasons in Crew history, with 39 points on a career-high 15 goals and nine assists. Veteran midfielder Robert Warzycha also fashioned the best season of his MLS career with six goals and a then-team-record 13 assists for 25 points to earn the Crew's Honda MVP award.
But none of it was enough to keep Columbus from falling short in its bid to qualify for postseason play again, and the Crew was on the outside looking in as the playoffs began for the first time ever.
It didn't help that Brian McBride [U.S.] and Ansil Elcock [Trinidad & Tobago] missed significant lime for 2002 World Cup qualifying and that McBride, along with a host of others, were bitten by the injury bug.
But the 2000 season will be remembered for many things, among them Warzycha scoring the first-ever regular-season golden goal in MLS history to defeat San Jose 2-1 in the home opener; the emergence of Brian West, who came into his own in his third season in the league; Matt Napoleon's trip to Australia as the alternate goalie on the U.S. Men's Olympic Team; and the gritty, hard-nosed play of Gori and defender Mike Clark.
Most of all, 2000 will be remembered as the year Crew Stadium played host to its first MLS All-Star Game and World Cup qualifying match Standing-room-only crowds packed the stadium on both occasions - with 23,495 on hand for the July 29 All-Star Game and 24,430 for the U.S-Costa Rica qualifier on Oct. 11 - further cementing Crew Stadium's important place on the U.S. soccer landscape.