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Stern John at Columbus Crew (1998)

It’s hard to believe that we will ever see anything quite like Stern John’s 1998 season ever again. On the recommendation of his cousin, Black & Gold defender/midfielder Ansil Elcock, Columbus signed 21-year-old Stern John from the second-division New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers, where he had scored 16 goals in 26 appearances in 1997.

Things started off slowly in Columbus, but after four scoreless appearances, John bagged a hat trick in a 5-1 flogging of the Miami Fusion at Ohio Stadium on April 18. He scored again the next week in a shootout loss at RFK Stadium.

A month later, on May 30, he suddenly bagged another hat trick in a 4-1 win vs. San Jose, running his goal total to seven. He scored single tallies in back to back weeks in mid-June, then added another goal in early July.

By the time Columbus hit the 20-game mark in early August, John looked like a really good find. He had scored 10 goals in 15 appearances. He had done all of his goal scoring in just six of those games, so he was perhaps a little streaky, but when he was on, he was ON.

And then the final seven weeks of the season happened. In the span of 12 games in 49 days, Stern John went off, scoring 16 goals. SIXTEEN! Streaky no more, he scored in nine of the Black & Gold’s final 12 matches. He was consistently unstoppable.

He scored two goals in a 6-1 slaughtering of New England on August 8. After a scoreless game in New Jersey, John came off the bench in the 53rd minute in the August 16 game against Kansas City. Enough time for a hat trick? Yep. John scored in the 71st, 79th, and 81st minutes to lead the Black & Gold to a 5-3 comeback win. Six days later, it was two goals in a 3-1 win vs. Tampa Bay. Seven days after that, it was two more goals in a 3-0 victory in Los Angeles. So that’s a hat trick and three braces in the span of just 21 days!

John briefly cooled down after that. He scored one paltry goal vs. the MetroStars on September 6, which ran his season total to 20, then put in 90 scoreless minutes apiece in shutout losses vs. Miami and at New England.

Then, as if he were a Rush fan, he went 2-1-1-2 in the final four games to boost his season total to 26, which was one shy of the league record held by Roy Lassiter of the 1996 Tampa Bay Mutiny. (Since equaled by Chris Wondolowski of the 2012 San Jose Earthquakes.)

When it was over, John’s season looked like this:

  • Hat tricks: 3
  • Braces: 5
  • Singles: 7

That’s right, if Stern John scored a goal in 1998, it was more likely than not to be followed up by at least one more goal. That’s crazy.

Here are some more splits…

  • First half of the season: 9
  • Second half of the season: 17
  • Home games: 20
  • Road games: 6

TWENTY HOME GOALS! For now, Stern John is the only player in Crew SC history to hit the 20-goal mark, and it’s crazy to think that he still would have done it even if he had sat out all 16 road games!

Kei Kamara could hit the 20-goal mark this year. He’s currently at 12 home goals and six road goals, for an overall total of 18.

Anyway, Stern John’s 1998 season was nuts. Absolutely nuts. Those final seven weeks are just off the charts. Ridiculous.

Even if you are too young to remember Stern John’s 1998 season, please applaud the heck out of that man when he’s in town for the September 26 match. What he did was legendary, and it has revealed itself to be even more so with the passage of time.