OBETZ, Ohio – Eddie Gaven is the exception on the Crew. He actually has something nice to say about Giants Stadium.
“I have a lot of really, really good memories from my time playing there,” Gaven said. “The fans treated me great.”
But Gaven is in the minority now. No visiting club was happier to say goodbye to Giants Stadium last season than the Crew, who went 0-8-3 since 2003 at the former home of the Red Bulls and MetroStars.
Hoping for a better start to a new era in New York soccer, the Crew will make their Red Bull Arena debut on Thursday night on ESPN2.
“Soccer has come a long way,” Crew defender Frankie Hejduk said. “From what I’ve heard the arena is incredible. Hopefully, they’ll be a few more built and get soccer to where it should be in America, that is one of the top sports.”
Things weren’t always so positive. Like most other MLS teams, the Crew this week were quick to condemn just about everything involved with Giants Stadium, where they were 9-13-3 all-time before its soccer days ended last year.
“It’s a miserable surface. The atmosphere’s terrible. It just wasn’t much fun playing there,” goalkeeper William Hesmer said. “Soccer was never meant to be played on that surface.”
Added defender Danny O’Rourke: “Maybe it’s good to get out of there.”
In fact, there was a time when the Crew owned Giants Stadium. That’s where they won their first-ever road game in 1996, when Bo Oshoniyi stopped a Tab Ramos penalty kick in a 2-0 victory.
The Crew later ran off seven straight wins - including one in the 1998 playoffs - before a fateful play turned the tide on Sept. 20, 2003.
There was just over a minute remaining in overtime when Amado Guevara sent a free kick 53 yards in the air to John Wolyniec, who one-timed the ball with his left foot from six yards into the far right netting and a 1-0 win.
The Crew never won there again, including a 2008 Columbus loss when Red Bulls goalkeeper Danny Cepero boomed an 80-yard free kick that bounced off the stadium’s turf surface and into the back of the net for the first MLS goal scored by a goalkeeper.
But with sour memories of Giants Stadium a thing of the past, Gaven may actually have to step on the grass and touch the arena concrete to remove all doubt that it’s real.
“They’ve been building that since before I came into the league,” Gaven joked. “They always said it was going to be next year, next year. I’m excited to see it’s finally done.”