There are deep roots for Indiana coaches Danny O’Rourke and Todd Yeagley in the city of Columbus, Ohio.
Yeagley played for the Crew for seven years while O’Rourke was born in the city and played for the Crew, winning an MLS Cup there too. Now they both reside in Bloomington. Yeagley is one of the top coaches in college soccer while O’Rourke is a first-year assistant coach. Both are big pieces in leading their alma mater’s soccer program near the top of the college soccer world.
When news broke Friday night with reports of the Crew staying in Columbus before IU’s match against Maryland, it was a chance to reminisce about their roots. Both Yeagley and O’Rourke were very excited by the news.
“I wanted to wear my Crew shirt underneath everything today,” Yeagley said. “I’m so excited to hear the direction…Obviously Danny and I have a lot of history there and with Brian here last, with our history.”
A message to the fans from Danny O’Rourke on the #SaveTheCrew news from today.
Story coming soon. #SavedTheCrew
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) October 12, 2018
Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam along with Columbus doctor Pete Edwards Jr. are apart of a group to buy the team from Anthony Precourt who planned on moving the franchise to Austin. While things aren’t 100 percent finalized as of yet, people are cautiously optimistic that the Crew have finally been saved.
“I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch, so I’m going to wait for the official news, but everything looks to be moving in the right direction,” O’Rourke said. “Not as much happy for myself, but more so happy for the city because those fans, they deserve it.”
Indiana has sent three prominent players to Columbus to play for the Crew with Yeagley, O’Rourke and Brian Maisonneuve. During Yeagley’s seven years in Columbus, he made 155 appearances while scoring six goals. He, along with former IU teammate Maisonneuve, went from Bloomington to Columbus.
Maisonneuve was there from 1996 until 2004 appearing 172 times while scoring 23 goals. Aside from both having played for IU, there is one distinct similarity between them: they both exclusively played for the Crew in MLS. That’s why it was so important to Yeagley to see them stay.
“All the past players, a bit of our identity would be lost if it moved,” Yeagley said. “I was a one-club player, so for me in particular, that’s the team that I only played for and I’m proud of that and what we did. So I’m really excited because I want to keep coming back to Columbus and see more games.”
For O’Rourke, he wanted to try to get back to Columbus however he could when he was drafted into the league in 2004. In 2006, the Crew was the worst team in MLS. Still, O’Rourke was pleading with the New York Red Bulls and then Toronto FC to deal him to his hometown club. Eventually, he ended up back in Columbus in 2007.
That next season in 2008 was a legendary year in Columbus soccer history. O’Rourke was part of a team that won the city’s first MLS Cup. One of the original MLS franchises finally reached the pinnacle of American club soccer.
Now, fast-forward 10 years. The fans were fighting to keep the team. The #SaveTheCrew movement was everywhere on social media and at soccer matches around the world. O’Rourke said it was important for MLS to keep one of its original franchises.
“It’s one of the original teams, and what you hate to see in professional sports is when the Chargers went to LA, the Browns went to Baltimore, a whole fan base, whether it’s generation after generation of taking your kids or grandkids to games is lost,” O’Rourke said. “Especially with such a grassroots league like MLS, and like soccer is a different fan base than the NFL. The ability to keep them there and for generations to come, hopefully, is, you can’t really put words to it.”
Story coming soon. #SavedTheCrew
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) October 13, 2018
Maisonneuve, Yeagley and O’Rourke are just three of many former Hoosiers to have played in MLS. But the connection those three now have with the city of Columbus is unique.
The whole process may have been bumpy with twists and turns, but now #SaveTheCrew can finally be #SavedTheCrew.
“It was a roller coaster, to be honest,” O’Rourke said. “I think the #SaveTheCrew movement was fantastic. It really spread and showed the passion of the fans.”