In the days following the tragic passing of Columbus Crew and former Chicago Fire PDL midfielder Kirk Urso, many tributes and reactions have been recorded.
Urso’s passing this week marked the second loss of life this year for the club’s PDL alumni after former forward Patrick Grange (2002-04) lost his battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease in April.
As Fire players returned to training Wednesday following two days off, what struck me was the reach and touch points that the promising midfielder had throughout American soccer.
A survey of the youngsters that make up the club’s defensive corps served as a prime example.
“I was shocked. I really couldn’t believe it,” said former Fire PDL teammate Austin Berry. “He always had a smile on his face but once he got on the field, he was serious. He was someone I would have wanted on my team.”
Berry and Urso became well acquainted with each other on the field and off during the 2010 PDL campaign with the pair being the only two players to appear in all 16 regular season games that season. Urso led the team with five goals and four assists and also doubled playing with the club’s Super-20 side during 2010.
Tony Walls, another PDL teammate, drew on even earlier memories of the Downers Grove product.
“I was in utter disbelief,” said the Fire right back I knew him growing up a bit as well with ODP since he was from Illinois and I’m from Wisconsin. He’s a hell of a player. He worked both ways offensively and defensively. He carried himself well of the field too. It’s shocking. He was always very polite and well-spoken. He was very competitive on the field. Off the field, he was a class guy.”
While Urso’s loss was felt among those that knew him via his Fire roots, it was Jalil Anibaba who perhaps knew him best after teaming with the midfielder during the University of North Carolina’s run to the NCAA College Cup in 2010.
“Kirk was a great guy,” said the second year defender. “On and off the field, he was always doing the right things – I would call him a perfectionist. He never took shortcuts in life. He was a good guy to every single one of his teammates and the coaching staff. He embodied a true student athlete at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and you could see he was becoming an even better pro.”
While Anibaba teamed with Urso at UNC, Hunter Jumper got to know him beginning with their time with the U.S. U-17 National Team.
“I first met Kirk on a U-17 National Team trip in Minnesota,” said Jumper. “It was our first trip and Kirk was just coming into residency. He looked so young and he stood out right away, you could see by the way he played and carried himself that he was ready to be a residency player at 16 years old.
Later on, Jumper became even more familiar with Urso in high-stakes Atlantic Coast Conference clashes when the Fire defender lined up for the University of Virginia against the Tar Heels.
“He was always the first guy our coaches would circle on the board as someone to watch out for. You knew in college he was going to be in MLS and did well to make his path there. The news this week shows you just how precious life is.”
After Sunday’s news, MLS matches in Portland and Seattle observed a moment of silence in honor of Urso, showing the close-knit nature of the American soccer community.
In recognition of Urso’s time with the Chicago Fire, the team will wear black armbands during Sunday’s match at the Philadelphia Union.