COLUMBUS, Ohio – The most significant moment during an emotion-filled evening was not when Columbus Crew forward Jairo Arrieta scored the first goal, nor the save in stoppage time by Andy Gruenebaum to preserve the 1-1 tie Wednesday against the LA Galaxy.
No, what the Crew will remember from their first match since the unexpected death of rookie midfielder Kirk Urso on Aug. 5 was the presence of his family in the Crew Stadium locker room after the match.
WATCH: Tributes to Urso around Crew Stadium
Grief-stricken parents Michael and Sandra Urso and Kirk’s brother, Kyle, came from Lombard, Ill., where they had buried their son on Saturday with the entire Crew team in attendance.
“I really appreciate them showing up,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. “I know how tough it is, but it’s great for everyone to see them because they’re part of our family. They’ll always be.”
There was applause from the hushed locker room when the Ursos entered.
“For them to watch the team their son played for made me want to win the game that much more for him,” midfielder Eddie Gaven. “If we work with that kind of spirit, if we fight like that throughout the year, not only are we going to win more games than we lose but we’re going to be honoring Kirk’s memory pretty well.”
There was a pregame ceremony for Urso that included a video, and even though the team had seen a prior screening it still made an impact.
“I had seen the video already but pretty much lost it after that,” Gruenebaum said. “A lot of guys were affected by it. It was tough to refocus but the whistle’s going to blow and we had to be ready.”
Columbus labored through the first 20 minutes or so but then started clicking even though they did not go ahead until the 47th minute on Arrieta’s third goal in five games since the Costa Rican forward joined the team in late June.
He understood how special the goal was.
“I didn’t know him as much as everybody else, but the few times I met him, he was a great guy,” Arrieta said through a translator. “I wanted to dedicate the goal to him and his family in these tough times.”
And though a tie at home is not usually a good result, Crew head coach Robert Warzycha knew this was no ordinary night.
“It was a difficult game for us to play,” he said. “The three points were not the most important thing for us. There is something bigger we played for.”