OBETZ, Ohio – Yes, if last Saturday’s game against Toronto FC had been played as scheduled, the grief-stricken Columbus Crew would have physically been on the Crew Stadium pitch.
Emotionally, however, it would have been a very different story.
Fortunately, the match was postponed until Aug. 22 so Crew players and coaches could give the proper goodbye to teammate Kirk Urso, who died Aug. 5. The funeral was Saturday in Lombard, Ill.
“It was the best thing not to [play] from that standpoint,” midfielder Eddie Gaven told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “It was good we could focus on Kirk and his family and not have in the backs of our heads knowing we have to come back and play a game several hours after putting him to rest.”
The decision not to play was made Thursday evening after discussions between the Crew, MLS and Toronto officials.
There were conversations earlier that the team might be able to charter back to Columbus immediately after the funeral for the match, but Gaven said that it would have been unwise.
“It was one of the hardest days of my life for sure,” he said. “I don’t know how I could have done it, but if that was the decision, I know I would have found a way to play and the other guys would have as well.”
Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha agreed that his team was not mentally prepared for a match less than seven hours after leaving the cemetery.
“It would have been extremely difficult,” he said.
The Crew resumed training Monday for Wednesday’s match against LA (7 pm ET; NBC Sports Network).
“We’re rested,” midfielder Chris Birchall said. “We’ve had time to connect as a unit and give our farewell to Kirk. Hopefully, we can go on and give a good performance [for] him.”
All of the plans to honor Urso on Saturday will instead be done at Wednesday's game, including a video tribute prior to the match.
Warzycha said the players will decide if they want to be on the field to see it or stay in the locker room.
“It’s going to be hard if we’re going to be out there for that,” Gaven said. “He’s going to be in our hearts. We’re going to be fighting for him as well.”
The players will wear a patch with Urso’s No. 15 for the rest of the season.
Designated Player Federico Higuaín has not arrived from Argentina yet as problems obtaining a visa has delayed his departure. He was signed July 27.
Warzycha was succinct when asked if the forward could play against LA if he arrives Tuesday: “Absolutely.”