Yesterday the Tar Heels faced MLS’s Columbus Crew in a spring friendly. The game comes in the middle of the effective “offseason” for the Heels, while for the Crew the game comes right before the start of the MLS regular season. The match was moved from its original venue in Browns Summit to the stadium at UNCG due to the recent rains making the Macpherson Stadium pitch unplayable. Over 2,000 fans attended the match, from which all proceeds went to charity.
The match was a fundraiser for the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund, a charity created by the Crew alongside the Children’s Heart Foundation to sponsor youth heart health research. Kirk died from a congenital heart condition which was missed by even the MLS’s draft screening.
The Heels went down to a 79th minute goal from Konrad Warzycha, though the score of the match hardly matters so much as the result. The true outcome of the game was an emphatic installment into the Memorial Fund, which is still open and remains open to donations. While Columbus walked away with the victory, it was the beneficiaries of the Children’s Heart Foundation who won.
In terms of a competition, the match was rather unimportant. There’d have been little to do had the Crew lost when there was nothing competitive on the line, and the Tar Heels were never expected to win against an MLS team, even with the limited stakes. The Memorial Match was akin to the Charity Shield in England, wherein the two teams compete mainly for the benefit of charity and the match is not considered a genuine competition.
Another treat for fans was the opportunity to see Ben Speas play against his old team. He remarked after the game on playing in the match and on Kirk Urso. He said “For me personally, it’s awesome,” on playing with the Heels again and “I think it just shows the lives that he touched. For our Crew teammates, it’s good. We still think about him daily. It’s still tough, but I think this is a good event.” on Kirk Urso’s legacy.
The Heels play next in a month against the Carolina Railhawks of the USL.