The River Valley boys soccer team defeated Galion Tigers 3-1 in an MOAC match up on Saturday October 8, 2022. While that doesn’t jump out at someone as a huge game, it was arguably the biggest game in the history of the Vikings’ boys soccer program.
This Iberia Cup game wasn’t played at Galion. River Valley was the home team on the scoreboard, but the game was not at River Valley either. This game was played at the Historic Crew Stadium in Columbus, which is the first soccer-specific professional sports stadium in the United States. This stadium was formerly the home of the MLS’ Columbus Crew from 1999-2021, and it has hosted several huge games in its 23 years of existence.
The MLS Cup, MLS All Star Game and several US Men’s National Team World Cup Qualifiers are some of the biggest events that have taken place at this stadium…including four very famous 2-0 (dos-a-cero) wins over Mexico. In 2003, the eyes of the world were on this 22,000-seat venue, as the Women’s World Cup saw six matches played here.
On this crisp autumn day though, the cavernous stadium played host to a fierce MOAC match-up. “It was a surreal moment. Playing in that stadium is a dream come true,” said Viking junior captain Gabe Douce. The First Team All MOAC player had two assists on the day and played an amazing game helping possess the ball for much of the 80 minutes.
The Vikings scored early on a Hudson Pollock goal and went up 1-0. The Tigers countered 14 minutes later when their attack got around Viking freshman Aiden Jordan and found All MOAC first team forward Jack Hart to knot the score. “I wasn’t too nervous to start the game, but that play really got into my head,” Jordan said.
Jordan didn’t need to worry too long as Douce found Pollock again, and the Sophomore tapped in an easy goal to give the Vikings a 2-1 halftime lead. Pollock later found fellow Sophomore Christian Knight alone on the left side, and Knight scored with 22 minutes left to give the Vikings the final score of the day.
The defense was ready from start to finish, and the outside back tandem of Jordan and freshman Ian Burns teamed with the Viking center back tandem of juniors Noah Williams and Hayden Campbell to help shut down the Tigers high-powered offense. “I was kind of nervous but we tried to treat it as just another game,” Burns said. “I just figured if I played my best, I knew we would be fine. It wasn’t until after the game where I realized just how big of a deal this game was.”
For captain Williams, a special game like this meant that he and his fellow Vikings had to show up looking the part. Channeling Joe Burrow, Williams made it clear that he wanted everyone to know the Vikings meant business getting off the bus by what he called “bringing the drip.” “Hey, it’s what the pros do,” Williams said. “I feel like it made the experience more special for the team. It was different than just the normal warmups we would wear on the way to a normal game.”
Williams clearly won the “drip” contest, arriving in navy and gold leaf suit, Hollywood sunglasses, bottomed off with sequined gold shoes. Williams noted that Assistant Coach Sherod McGuire, freshman Kain Mencer, Knight and Sophomore Preston Campbell also brought their A-Game with their arrival attire.
In order to play this game, the Vikings and Tigers had to do a bit of fundraising for the Crew to make it all happen. Playing an “Elite Game,” as it’s known, each playing team had to sell 225 tickets to a Crew home game in order to be able to play the game, free of charge. The Vikings sold all of their tickets for the Crew’s September 18th home game vs. Portland Timbers, and it was a great experience to the team and their families enjoy such a great team builder at a game and venue like that.
The original plan had the game taking place at the Crew’s new downtown stadium lower.com Field. However, the Crew’s junior team Crew 2 made it to the final of their league’s tournament, and that had to be played at the senior team’s home field.
After trying to find a new date for the game, it was determined that the game had to be played at Historic Crew Stadium, which was clearly not just a consolation prize. Getting to use the same locker room that so many elite players have used in the past was a highlight of all of the players and coaches. “It was also great that we won, but WOW, those huge stands and how big that stadium is was just a great experience,” Sophomore Goalkeeper J.R. Bates said.
However, the silver lining in all of this is that next year, this same match up will definitely be played at lower.com Field. The Group Ticket Department for the Crew was amazed that both teams came through with their 450 total tickets sold goal, so next year’s game will take place at a time and date to be determined.