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Columbus Crew

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Columbus Crew

Chris Amaral '19, Staff Writer

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With the MLS playoffs nearing its climax, only four teams remain, each with a unique storyline guiding them to the final. Toronto FC has the greatest single-season record for an MLS team of all time and is looking to avenge a loss in the final last year. Seattle Sounders are looking to repeat as champions on the back of a strong attack and a fortress of a home stadium. Houston Dynamo are trying to rebound from a season last year in which it finished last in the Western Conference and claim its first title since 2007.

However, the story of the Columbus Crew is by far the most interesting. On the surface, the club appears to be a standard MLS team. A loaded front line with hard nosed defenders behind them, Columbus doesn’t stand out from the pack in any way in terms of personnel. However, it is the off-field crisis that makes the story so incredible. The Columbus Crew is one of the founding members of the league, winning an MLS Cup in 2008, and has been a staple of the league since. Regardless, the club averages attendance of just 15,439 fans per game — 3rd worst in the league — and has an owner who is looking for a move to Austin, Texas. Competition against the de facto professional sports team in the city, the Ohio State Buckeyes’ football program, and a rather unattractive brand of soccer have made the bleachers bare at MAPFRE Stadium, and owner Anthony Precourt has stated that he will move the club to Austin in 2019 if his demands for a stadium in downtown Columbus aren’t met.

While these demands have distressed fans of the historic club, they have turned this distress into action, creating a campaign titled #SaveTheCrew, looking to keep the Crew in Columbus. This campaign has spread across the terraces of America, from supporters of fellow MLS originals DC United, New York Red Bulls (Metrostars), and even bitter rivals Chicago Fire to the lowly USL supporters of Charleston Battery and Tampa Bay Rowdies sporting ‘Save The Crew’ banners in their supporter sections. A ‘Save The Crew’ rally was held at City Hall in Columbus, and thousands turned up to support the cause, including former player Robbie Rogers and, perplexingly, Biz Markie, who performed a variation of his hit song “Just a Friend” replacing the word “you” in the song’s chorus with “Crew.” Despite all the chaos surrounding the team, the Crew have been an inspired bunch, grinding out a goalless draw with Atlanta United and winning on penalty kicks and to beat New York City Football Club 4-3 over two games, including a 4-1 win on home field and a nail-biting 2-0 defeat at Yankee Stadium. Now having to play arguably the greatest team in the history of the MLS, one question remains: Will a cup win Save The Crew?      

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