Urso on his mind

Columbus Crew's Kirk Urso died Saturday night. On Sunday day night, his close friend, Andy Rose paid tribute by scoring his first MLS goal. They were both 22.

SEATTLE - When Andy Rose scored his first MLS goal in the 88th minute of the Sounders FC's 4-0 win over the LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night, he didn't know how to react.

He spread his arms wide and a smile lit up the face of the 22-year-old rookie midfielder.

In that moment, his mind wasn't on the Sounders six-match unbeaten streak or their biggest win of the season. It was on his close friend, Kirk Urso, who died early Sunday morning at the age of 22.

"All day, my minds been on Kirk and his family and I wasn't really sure what to do. I know he's touched a lot of lives," Rose said. "If anything, that goal was certainly for him."

Rose got a phone call at 5:15 Sunday morning, with news on the other end that Urso, a midfielder for the Columbus Crew, passed away. They were club teammates in Chicago during their early-teen years, playing together in the middle of midfield at the club and ODP levels.

Having never been through the loss of a peer, Rose was crushed by the news.

"You don't quite believe something like that," he said. "My thoughts and prayers are completely with his family. He comes from an incredible family."

The two continued to stay in touch, even as Rose returned to England. Their bond stayed strong when Urso went to the University of North Carolina and Rose went to UCLA and was fortified when they met in the semifinals of the NCAA championships last December.

Both were captains of their respective sides, so they met before the match and shook hands at midfield. When the match went to overtime, they met again at midfield, again shaking hands. Then as the match headed into penalty kicks, they met for a third time.

"We've got to stop meeting like this," Rose recalls saying to him.

Urso and North Carolina would win the match on penalties and go on to win the national title. For Rose, it was an unforgettable moment.

"It was one of the best moments of my career when we got to play against each other in the Final Four," Rose said. "He was my measuring stick in a way. I always wanted to be as good as Kirk. Growing up, he was a great leader of our team - head and shoulders above everyone else."

After scoring his first career MLS goal, Rose had several messages on his phone from friends around the country who had seen it on the national broadcast on ESPN2. However, one message wasn't on his phone, but instead in his heart.

"I know he's smiling down on us," Rose said.

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