This is the first in a new series in which we introduce Orlando City fans to the teams our Lions will be facing in 2015 when the team starts play in Major League Soccer. As I’m from Columbus, Ohio, it’s only fitting we start this series with the Columbus Crew.
What are the three most important things Orlando City fans need to know about the Crew?
1. The Columbus Crew was announced as the first MLS club in June of 1994, just under two years before the league kicked off its first season, and opened the first soccer specific stadium in the United States in 1999. You could say they are a team of firsts (for what it’s worth, they also scored the first golden goal in overtime, back when that was a thing).
2. Columbus was originally owned by Larmar Hunt, owner of the then Kansas City Wizards and the Dallas Burn and also the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. In July of 2013, the franchise was sold to Anthony Precourt and his Precourt Sports Venture. Precourt is in the process of reshaping the club, including renovating parts of the stadium, the locker rooms, and also a recently announced rebrand to freshen the team’s image.
3. The Black and Gold have had some of the league’s best players don their colors throughout the years. Beginning with Brian McBride (1996-2003) and filling a list that includes Chad Marshall (two-time MLS defender of the year), Guillermo Barros Schelotto (MLS and MLS Cup MVP), Jeff Cunningham (MLS’ second all-time goal scorer), Edson Buddle (one of eight players to score 100 goals in MLS), and Frankie Hejduk (two FIFA World Cup tournaments).
What nicknames, chants and slang are unique to Columbus, and can you please explain them if they aren’t readily apparent to the outsider?
PM: The nicknames most commonly associate with the Columbus Crew are the Crew or the Black and Gold. With the rebrand, CCSC (Columbus Crew Soccer Club) may also be used, but that is yet to be seen. The Crew doesn’t have too many unique chants, but rather ones that have been altered to feature “Columbus” or players names. Goalkeeper Steve Clark, who is in his first year with the team, has begun a tradition of celebrating wins in front of the supporter’s section, The Nordecke, with a “Yes!” chant made famous by WWE’s Daniel Bryan, which has become a popular.
What are the can’t-miss things to do when Orlando City fans visit Columbus?
PM: Fourth Street Bar has become a popular destination for Crew and soccer fans alike. It is on the edge of the Ohio State campus and a short walk to Crew Stadium. Many Columbus fans gather there for away games and it was one of the destination locations for World Cup viewing parties. It also holds parties whenever the U.S. Men’s National Team comes to town, bringing in people from around the country. If you’re looking for a restaurant/bar before a game and are okay with a seven or eight minute walk, this is the place to go.
This year, the supporter’s groups came together to form one large tailgate in the parking lot of Crew Stadium. The fans start early and there is usually food being cooked and beverages (both of the youth and adult variety) being shared. Located just out front of the main stadium gates. it is a more tradition tailgate scene with tents and grill-type food.
If you are looking for something to do the night before or after the game, the short north is a nice artsy area with bars and restaurants galore. There is also the Arena District downtown surrounding the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Nationwide Arena, which features sports bars and restaurants.
Who are the key players on the Crew we should know about?
PM: Federico Higuain is the player every MLS fan should know. The brother of the former Real Madrid player and member of the Argentina World Cup team Gonzalo Higuain, Pipa, as he is affectionately known, has become one of the top talents in MLS over his two and half seasons. Although he doesn’t get the national recognition of Thierry Henry or Clint Dempsey, Higuain is the attacking player opponents fear.
Wil Trapp is a player in which U.S. soccer fans should become familiar. The Crew’s homegrown product locked down the central midfield position in his rookie year and has been a key cog since. At only 21-years old, Trapp has a long future ahead of him and is already a part of the national team picture.
This year, a few other players have emerged. Third-year player Ethan Finlay has made the right midfield position his own after struggling to make the bench to start the season. The player out of Creighton has 10 goals on the year, which is 10 more than he scored in his first two years combined. Steve Clark has also come in and taken control of the goalkeeper position for the Black and Gold. Hand selected by first-year head coach Gregg Berhalter, Clark is quickly working his way into the discussion for one of the league’s best between the pipes.
Which Columbus players might get exposed in the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft?
PM: The Crew are fortunate in that they have multiple players who they would want to protect already safe under the homegrown category. With that said, there are a couple of players Columbus fans would be sad to see leave that the staff may not be able to protect.
Defender Josh Williams may be left unprotected just because of sheer numbers. Williams began the season as a starter for the Crew, but was forced from the lineup due to a blood clot. After one surgery, Williams had to have a second procedure to remove a rib that was pinching his vein. Williams has just returned to training for the Black and Gold, but his fitness will likely keep him out of the lineup for the remainder of the regular season. Williams has the size and skill to play anywhere along the back line and has done so throughout his career.
Another player who could go unprotected and might be of interest to Orlando is defender Eric Gehrig. Gehrig came into the league as a defensive midfielder, but spent most of his time as a backup for former Crew defender Chad Marshall. This year, Gehrig flourished, earning a career high in games played, games started, and minutes. Like Williams, Gehrig is a diverse defender, who has played at center back and right back, while he can also move into the midfield if needed.
Both of these players would bring MLS experience to the Orlando City defensive unit.
And there you have it, a quick look at the Columbus Crew (excuse us, Columbus Crew SC). Big thanks to Pat Murphy for giving us the skinny on our new foes from Ohio.