One year after tragedy, Columbus Crew gather to honor fallen teammate Kirk Urso

COLUMBUS, Ohio – On a normal Monday for the Columbus Crew, a loss over the weekend would have dominated the players' thoughts. But August 5 was not a normal Monday.

The team's day began when they went to church as a group to honor Kirk Urso, who died a year ago to the day of Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy, a genetic heart defect. The team, including players who were not on the roster last year and who may not have met Urso, gathered together to remember and celebrate the former North Carolina and Crew player's life.

"It was great to be able to get together with a group of guys and talk about him and remember him for the good things, the silly things," said Ethan Finlay, who was also a rookie last season. "As a team, and also our staff and coaches, we put some money together and sent the Urso family some yellow roses to remind them that they're always going to be a part of our family.

“It was nice to reminisce and talk about it, and it was a lot more smiles and happy thoughts about the impact he made on us. It was nice to bring in guys who hadn't even met Kirk to be there and support us."

The club and the Urso family have been dedicated to eulogizing Kirk's name with charity and an effort to raise awareness for heart conditions since his death. Tuesday was the team's third annual Golf Classic, in which the organization dedicated proceeds to the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund, which supports youth heart health research and programming.

For Crew head coach Robert Warzycha, the memory of Urso is representative of the Crew as a whole.

"Kirk is exactly what this team and this organization is about," he said. "He was a hard working guy who never complained. You can put his face on any project that you have. He was one of the special kids, I would say. Everybody liked him and he was the first to help anybody."

Midfielder Ben Speas, Urso's teammate both in college and with Columbus, said that remembering his former teammate – who had broken into the starting lineup before being sidelined by an injury – makes him feel fortunate to still be playing the game.

"It was an interesting day. It was a tough day," Speas said. "I feel fortunate that I'm still able to play. I think about how Kirk doesn't get to play anymore. We miss him as a teammate in the locker room, and I miss him on the field as well. I liked to play with him, and he was a great player."