UNC, Columbus to honor Kirk Urso’s memory


Kirk Urso was the captain of the 2011 College Cup-winning UNC men’s soccer team. The Columbus Crew drafted him in 2012.

Kirk Urso was a great competitor. His competitive spirit helped the North Carolina men’s soccer team to four consecutive College Cups, and in his senior year, Urso captained the National Championship-winning team.

On Sunday, the Tar Heels and the MLS team that drafted Urso — the Columbus Crew — will honor that competitive spirit in an exhibition match near Greensboro.

All proceeds from the event will go to the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund which, in conjunction with the Children’s Heart Foundation, supports congenital heart research.

“It’s very meaningful to all of us, myself included,” North Carolina coach Carlos Somoano said. “We have a tangible way to honor and keep Kirk’s memory fresh in people’s hearts … but also to remind the UNC student population and the UNC family that, hey, this guy was a great representative of our program.

“It gives us a chance to represent him and do the best to represent the things that he represented while he was here.”

Urso’s death on Aug. 5 devastated the soccer community both in Chapel Hill and Columbus, Ohio.

The Crew wore his No. 15 on its jerseys and field in honor of him, and the Tar Heels also had his No. 3 on their jerseys and the field.

UNC’s Jonathan Campbell, a Greensboro native, recalled how the news of Urso’s death brought the Tar Heels together.

“From the beginning it really made us realize how much we appreciate each other and brought us together,” Campbell said. “That was right when I came in as a freshman, and it really brought me into the family.”

Former UNC striker Ben Speas was a teammate of Urso’s in both Chapel Hill and Columbus and will be in a unique situation on Sunday with teammates on both sides of the ball.

Speas, who scored the game-winning goal in the 2011 championship match, has fond memories of his former captain. Speas said just being a captain doesn’t make you a leader, but Urso was a leader and then some.

“There’s a lot of things to remember, but the thing that probably sticks out the most is his leadership,” Speas said in a telephone interview. “Just how we won in 2011 and Kirk’s leadership — I mean he was the captain … I think Kirk was one of the best leaders I ever played with.”

The Crew will be traveling from preseason matches in Orlando to play the Tar Heels, and Speas said the whole team would be there but the lineup was still to be determined.

While UNC normally plays exhibitions in the spring, they usually don’t take place until after spring break, and they certainly aren’t scheduled with professional clubs.

“It may not be an ideal time for us,” Somoano said. “That’s meaningless at this point. We want to represent ourselves and Kirk on Sunday, and we’re going to do that by competing and playing hard because that’s what he would do.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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