The Crew welcomes former players back for Alumni Night

Fresh off a resounding victory in the second leg of the team's Hell Is Real derby at FC Cincinnati, the Crew returns to Columbus this weekend to face the Chicago Fire at Mapfre Stadium. But it's not just the current Crew players who are coming home. The team is also hosting an official alumni night at Saturday’s match, welcoming back several significant figures from its past.

A bunch of former Crew players got together last fall, too, but under much different circumstances. Last August, when Anthony Precourt got approval to build a new soccer stadium in Austin, Texas, and the franchise’s future in Columbus looked bleak, Crew luminaries Kyle Martino and Dante Washington recruited a full roster’s worth of former players to play a scrimmage on Oct. 28, the day of the final regular season match, at Ohio History Connection next to Mapfre.

The Crew Legends Game was designed to be an emotional sendoff for a club that meant so much to so many. But three weeks before the event, news broke that the Edwards and Haslam families were negotiating to buy control of the Crew and keep it in Columbus. So instead of funereal, the mood was playfully giddy, with the likes of Martino, Washington, and Brian McBride seemingly enjoying themselves even more than the enthusiastic throng who gathered to watch.

Among those partaking in last fall’s festivities was Dr. Pete Edwards, the longtime team physician who at the time was still negotiating to take over the franchise. Edwards was one of the Crew’s first employees, hired before they even had any players. Whereas Precourt always seemed disinterested in the club’s history, Edwards is deeply invested in it. So it’s no surprise that this time around, the gathering of old friends will be officially sanctioned by the team.

The list of names slated to appear at Alumni Night includes Mike Clark, Jeff Cunningham, John Harkes, Alejandro Moreno and Duncan Oughton “among other former Crew SC players.” World Cup veterans Brian Maisonneueve and Frankie Hejduk are pictured on promotional materials, while a photo gallery on the team site features Washington — recently named the Crew’s Director of Team Strategic Partnerships and Business Development — plus Marcelo Carrera, Tom Presthus, Gino Padula, Mike Lapper, Edson Buddle, Roland “Pato” Aguilera and former player and coach Robert Warzycha.

From 6-7 p.m., they’ll sign autographs at four stations around Mapfre Stadium plaza and mingle in the Social Tailgate in the Stadium Club Tent. At halftime, they’ll be honored in a ceremony alongside season ticket members from the inaugural 1996 season. Sadly, the old-timers will not hit the pitch for another scrimmage. Fortunately, the Crew still exists, and the current squad will be out there Saturday night making new history.

Columbus will be fighting for their postseason lives Saturday against the Fire, the team directly above them in the standings. The Crew is seven points out of a playoff spot with five matches left, so they’ll more than likely need to win out to clinch a berth. The original 1996 team faced a similar scenario and pulled it off, winning nine of their last 10 to climb into playoff position on the last day of the season. If ever there was a time to conjure that spirit, it will be Saturday, with their Crew predecessors and day one fans looking on.