Abandoning a landmark: The 10 most important soccer games in Columbus
May 15, 1999: Columbus Crew 2, New England Revolution 0
Contrary to common belief, Crew Stadium wasn't the first soccer-specific stadium in the U.S. -- the Charleston Battery's Blackbaud Stadium, now dubbed MUSC Heath Stadium, edged it by a couple of weeks -- but its debut was a huge deal for MLS and soccer in America.
An overflow crowd of 24,741 showed up to watch the Crew, on an early goal by Jeff Cunningham and a second-half strike by Stern John, topple New England. John would score 18 goals, tied for best in the league, to lead Columbus to second place in the East and to the Eastern Conference final.
Sept. 13, 1999: Rochester Rhinos 2, Colorado Rapids 0
Only one team outside Major League Soccer has won the U.S. Open Cup since MLS debuted in 1996, and it happened here, when the A-League's Rhinos capped a stunning title run with an upset over Colorado. Rochester, whose talented lineup featured future Montreal Impact coach Mauro Biello, beat four MLS teams in succession -- Chicago, Dallas, Columbus and the Rapids -- and survived two extra-time trips to claim the trophy in the first season Crew owner Lamar Hunt's name was attached to the competition.
Doug Miller came off the bench to score the first goal, eluding Peter Vermes and nutmegging Ian Feuer with an abrupt-angle shot in the 65th minute, and Pat Onstad kept the Rhinos ahead with a point-blank save on Paul Bravo five minutes later. Yari Allnutt added the second strike in the 90th.
Feb. 28, 2001: United States 2, Mexico 0 (men)
This was the start of “dos-a-cero,” the string of 2-0 Columbus wins over Mexico in qualifiers for United States the 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Crew Stadium offered the Americans a rare opportunity to be the true home team against El Tri on home ground, and they took advantage, although it didn't come easy on a frigid night (Mexican media dubbed the game the “Cold War”) in front of 24,329 fans.
Brian McBride exited the Hexagonal opener early after sustaining one of his head injuries and Claudio Reyna was gone before halftime with a groin ailment. The substitutes came through two minutes into the second half, with Clint Mathis' through ball feeding his former University of South Carolina teammate Josh Wolff's opener.
Wolff created the second goal, too, beating two defenders on the right flank, carrying the ball up the byline and finding Earnie Stewart for the one-time finish. It was the first U.S. World Cup qualifying victory in more than 20 years and just the second in 19 qualifiers since 1934.
Oct. 21, 2001: San Jose Earthquakes 2, Los Angeles Galaxy 1, ET
The Quakes topped their archrivals to claim the first of two MLS Cup titles in three seasons, pulling out the victory on Dwayne De Rosario's 96th-minute golden goal. The first of two MLS finals at Crew Stadium was a sizzler, with Mexican star Luis Hernandez handing LA a lead from Greg Vanney's long ball 21 minutes in.
Landon Donovan -- winning the first of a record six MLS Cups -- answered with a shot to the upper-right corner for San Jose just before halftime, and a tight battle taking the teams to extra time. De Ro, who came on for Ronald Cerritos in the 85th, started San Jose's celebrations by cutting inside atop the box against future Quakes teammate Danny Califf and firing in off the far post.
Dec. 14, 2001: North Carolina 3, Stanford 2, 4ET (men)
The NCAA twice brought its Men's College Cup final four to Crew Stadium, with North Carolina beating Indiana for its first title in 2001 and the Hoosiers claiming their sixth with a victory two years later over St. John's. Three of the four semifinal matches went to overtime, including both in 2001. The highlight was this one, with the Tar Heels rallying from a two-goal deficit in the final 10 minutes to force extra time and claiming a title-game berth on Matt Gett's perfectly placed lob 59 seconds into the fourth extra period.
Stanford, which had conceded more than one goal just once all season, looked like the winner after a blistering Todd Dunivant shot provided a first-half lead that Ryan Levesque doubled with 13 minutes to play. David Testo tallied in the 81st and Matt Crawford got the equalizer a minute later.