COLUMBUS, Ohio – There is no escaping the emotion that surrounds Wednesday’s match between the Columbus Crew and the LA Galaxy (7 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
It will be the first game for Columbus since the sudden and tragic passing of Crew midfielder Kirk Urso on Aug. 5. Urso’s untimely passing shook the Crew organization and the rest of MLS, leading to the eventual postponement of last Saturday’s match against Toronto FC so that players could attend Urso’s funeral.
This presents a unique challenge for the Galaxy as they look to continue their rise up the Western Conference standings in front of an incredibly emotionally charged environment at Crew Stadium.
“Certainly, it’ll be an emotional game for them,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said following the Galaxy’s training session on the Ohio State campus on Tuesday. “Obviously, the loss of Kirk is sad and tragic and we’re here to be in full support of the occasion, the whole Crew organization and the Urso family.”
The Galaxy are expected to participate in a series of pregame tributes to Urso, which include a pregame memorial video that is expected to be played before the opening kick off. LA performed their own tribute for Urso during last Sunday’s 4-0 victory over Chivas USA as the entire team donned “Kirk Urso 15” armbands in remembrance of the late Crew midfielder.
Even though the emotion surrounding the game is certain, how it impacts the way the two teams play on the field remains open for interpretation.
“They could take it two ways,” Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza said. “They could either be very emotional where they’re not really thinking about the game or they could be really tuned in and playing for Kirk and come out flying. Our plan is to score early, and if you do that, then you put them under a little bit of pressure and then maybe they fold.”
Ultimately, while the Galaxy will arrive at Crew Stadium on Wednesday with heavy hearts. But they admit that once the match kicks off, their focus will change to the task at hand.
“It’s going to be an emotional sort of thing for everybody, the crowd and the people associated with Columbus, we’re well aware at that,” said Galaxy forward Robbie Keane. “It’s the same here really, a couple of the [Galaxy] guys here knew him so it’ll be tough all around.
“But as soon as that whistle goes, we’re going to win the 90 minutes and focus on the game and after the game, our thoughts will be with the family.”