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updated: 8/6/2012 9:35 PM

Signs point to 'natural death' for Lombard soccer star

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  • Columbus Crew midfielder Kirk Urso, left, handles the ball against the Montreal Impact in the opening game of the MLS season at Crew Stadium in Columbus on March 24, 2012. Urso died at an Ohio hospital after collapsing at a restaurant/bar early Sunday.

      Columbus Crew midfielder Kirk Urso, left, handles the ball against the Montreal Impact in the opening game of the MLS season at Crew Stadium in Columbus on March 24, 2012. Urso died at an Ohio hospital after collapsing at a restaurant/bar early Sunday.
    courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch / Eamon Queeney

  • Kirk Urso

      Kirk Urso

  • After helping North Carolina win another NCAA soccer title, Kirk Urso flashed his skills last January at the 2012 MLS Player Combine. Urso, who played for the Columbus Crew, died Sunday at age 22.

      After helping North Carolina win another NCAA soccer title, Kirk Urso flashed his skills last January at the 2012 MLS Player Combine. Urso, who played for the Columbus Crew, died Sunday at age 22.
    courtesy of Andy Mead / MLSsoccer.com

 
 

Friends and teammates continued to try to understand the death Sunday of Columbus Crew midfielder Kirk Urso as an Ohio coroner said Monday signs pointed to "an apparent natural death."

The 22-year-old Urso, a Lombard native, was pronounced dead at 1:50 a.m. Sunday at Grant Medical Center after collapsing at a downtown Columbus bar and restaurant.

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Franklin County Coroner Jan Gorniak said toxicology tests will not be finalized for 4-6 weeks.

"It's leaning toward an apparent natural death, but we don't know why," Gorniak said.

She said the autopsy revealed no trauma to Urso's body, along with no blood clots. In addition to toxicology tests, the coroner's office will also take a closer look at what Gorniak referred to as "heart changes."

"What that means is we saw some changes with his heart, but we don't know what it is until we examine it underneath the microscope," she said. "So it could be something or it could be nothing. But it's not definitive as a cause of death right now."

Tributes from teammates and other members of the soccer community poured in.

"Was blessed to play with and against Kirk; he always stood out as a player and person," wrote Fire rookie Hunter Jumper on Twitter. "My thoughts and prayers go out to Kirk's family."

Woodridge native Will Johnson, a Real Salt Lake midfielder, Tweeted: "For those who didn't know him, came from a great family, always worked extremely hard and loved the game. He will be missed by so many."

"Just woke up to the news of the chitown boy Kirk Urso," wrote former Sockers FC teammate Rauwshan McKenzie, who now plays in MLS for Chivas USA. "Devastated, 22 is too young. Gonna miss you kid #RIP."

Added Mary Jane Bender of the Illinois Youth Soccer Association: "All of us who knew Kirk and his family are hurting. He was just a great guy and one of the nicest players we have ever known."

Urso played in six games with the Crew and was rehabbing from a sports-groin injury sustained in May. He did not travel to the game at D.C. United on Saturday night.

In a 9-1-1 call provided by police to The Columbus Dispatch, an unidentified female says: "Officers are with him. It's a very drunk person who fell down and now he's unconscious."

It is unclear if the speaker is affiliated with police, fire or an emergency crew or if she is a bystander.

Major League Soccer observed a moment of silence at both of its games on Sunday. Urso's family flew Sunday into Port Columbus airport where they were met by Crew assistant coach Duncan Oughton, who helped them get settled into a hotel, mlssoccer.com reported.

"We are deeply saddened by the death of Columbus Crew player Kirk Urso," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. "Major League Soccer mourns his death and sends our condolences to his family."

Urso was the captain at North Carolina last fall when it won the NCAA championship.

On the Tar Heels soccer team's website, North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham said Urso's former teammates and friends were devastated by the news of his death.

"In the very brief time I spent with Kirk it became evident that he was a natural leader," Cunningham said. "His enthusiasm was contagious to all who knew him. He had a positive and inspirational impact on his team, and many other student-athletes at Carolina."

• The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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