Kirk Urso s all-too-short tenure with the Crew officially kicked off with a text message from his brother. When he was selected by the Crew in the Jan. 17 supplemental draft, the North Carolina product was in the training room at his school being attended to by one of the school s trainers when his phone let him know that he had a shot to make the club s roster.
A supplemental pick is anything but a guarantee to make a MLS roster, but Urso sounded every bit confident when I caught up with him shortly thereafter.
When I pointed out that the Crew s roster was currently in excess of the league maximum, he responded, That s how the league is and that s how you re going to have to fight wherever you go. I m used to that. I was in residency for two years. I came to the best program here at UNC and had to fight for a spot every year. I m used to that and I m going to be focused on myself and playing the best game I can play. I hope at the end of it I get signed, but I m really just going to be focused on the day-to-day stuff.
His ability to focus on the day-to-day stuff won Urso a spot on the roster and a place in the starting lineup for the first five matches of the season. That in itself was impressive, but it was also Urso s ability to be critical of himself and expect more when he struggled on the field that rang impressive to me.
Asking a player about not playing well is a dicey proposition, especially when you are new to a beat and a team. To his credit, Urso was among the most available members of the Crew roster when healthy regardless of how things were going for him on the field.
There were a few things that obviously shouldn t have happened and things I need to cut out of my play but overall I think I had some positive moments, he said of his debut. I thought I connected pretty well. I can definitely connect better but I competed well in there, broke up some plays and put in some good services. There were some positives but obviously I understand I m a rookie and I need to improve. I think I ll pick it up. I just need to continue to work at it and I think I m coming along.
The day Urso was drafted, UNC head coach Carlos Somoano kept using the word winner when describing his four-year standout.
Kirk s a winner, he told me. He s been to four consecutive college cups at UNC. He s always played his best down the stretch in the playoffs and come up with big plays to win games. He does a lot of little things that may go unnoticed for some people, but he s just a winner.
As has been the case for much of the Crew s roster this season, however, injuries caught up with Urso and forced him to the sideline after losing his starting spot. Just last week it occurred to me to ask head coach Robert Warzycha about Urso s rehab, and he said the midfielder was some time from returning to action.
It had been a bumpy time so far with the Crew, but something Somoano told me on draft day had me anxious to see how Urso would respond to the adversity.
I think the most important thing for Kirk is not necessarily that but probably just more his personality, he said. I think that s what drove him to his success is the kind of personality that he had. He s a tough kid who just wants to win and doesn t accept anything else. He doesn t take no for an answer, doesn t accept failure. He s kind of a perfectionist so he gets frustrated and down but in a way that motivates him. That was probably the overriding quality that drove him to his success as opposed to his experiences.
That is just one part of what has made today such a difficult day to digest. As the tributes have poured in from across the globe but especially from within the Crew s locker room, it becomes obvious that Urso left impressions on those he encountered that will last much longer than his time on the field would indicate.
I can t profess to know him as well as those he has shared a practice field or locker room with. I can t say I know exactly how his career would have panned out, be it with the Crew or elsewhere.
But I can say that I am genuinely sad not to get the chance to find out.