First Person: Columbus's Second Football Team

When people think about football and Columbus, the first thing that comes to mind is the Ohio State University football team, and for good reason. The Buckeyes are a powerhouse, with the expectations of championships every year. However, to a growing number of people, Ohio football means the beautiful game and America's hardest working team, the Columbus Crew.  

In my years supporting the Crew, I have been fortunate enough to have attended some of the biggest games in the history of the club, from a team record-setting attendance of 31,550 in the final home game of the inaugural year, a 2-nil defeat of the NY/NJ Metrostars, to the opening game of the United States first soccer-specific stadium, a 2-nil victory over the New England Revolution, to the most recent clashes with the New York Red Bulls and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

In fact, I have seen more games at Crew Stadium than at Ohio Stadium, a fact that gives me a bit of a chuckle.

Now, while the Crew's attendance is not the best in the league, (last season the Crew was in the bottom half of average attendance even with winning back-to-back Supporters' Shields) it is still quite an experience to stand in the Nordecke and cheer on your team for 90 minutes.

And, of course the dream for the future of American soccer is to be playing in front of huge crowds in stadiums as large and well known as Old Trafford and Anfield, I wouldn't trade it for filled-to-capacity Nordecke cheering, shouting, and jumping their support for 90 minutes. From the announcing of each team's starting XI, to even after the final whistle and during the march to the parking lot, the Nordecke is in my opinion the best place to cheer in the league.

Even in games where the rest of the stadium looks empty and quiet, such as a U.S. Open Cup or CONCACAF Champions League game, the Nordecke can still be heard, trying their best to give the team a boost to help them win yet another game at Crew Stadium, which has turned into something of a fortress for the Crew, who have lost just four times in the past two seasons at home, truly a remarkable record.

The Nordecke has had a lot to cheer about in the past three to four years. The arrival of  Argentinian national Guillermo Barros Schelotto from Boca Juniors in April 2007 signaled that the Crew would return to the club that was a serious contender in the late 90s and early part of the decade. Though the Crew did not make the playoff's that season, with Schelotto and a cast of young and talented players such as Eddie Gaven, Robbie Rogers and Chad Marshall, all the pieces were in place for a bright future for the yellow soccer team.

Little did the Nordecke know that the next season would bring the Crew's first MLS Cup, but also a rare double with the Crew winning its third Supporters Shield. Led by league MVP Schelotto, the Crew looked like world beaters, finishing the regular season with a club record 57 points out of 30 games (the fifth highest points per game in league history), while also leading the league in scoring with 50 goals, a club record in the post-shootout era.

In 2009, the season started off to a crawl, with the Black-and-Gold not winning until its eighth game, the worst start by a defending MLS cup champion in league history. Worse news followed in that Guillermo would miss nearly two months with a hamstring pull. However, the loss of Guillermo seemed to spark the Crew into new heights, as the Crew would lose just two games from April 5 to August 30.

The Crew, cheered on by the faithful Nordecke, would set a league record with a 23-game unbeaten streak, snapped on June 20 with a 2-0 loss away to Dallas. After cruising to back-to-back supporters shields, it seemed the Crew were destined to repeat as MLS Cup champions, with lowly Real Salt Lake its first round opponents.

It was simply not meant to be, as a all of a sudden red hot Salt Lake won at home 1-0 on a late Robbie Findley goal and drew 2-2 at Crew Stadium after falling behind 2-0 thanks to two strikes by none other than Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Just like that, the Nordecke saw a repeat vanish into the cold Columbus night.

But the loss has only strengthened the Nordecke's resolve to help their team win. Even through another slow start by the Crew, the Nordecke and I were right there, cheering every step of the way. Now, the unbelievable league record of the LA Galaxy may prevent the Crew from a treble of consecutive Supporters' Shields, but that will not stop the Nordecke from cheering until the Crew are victorious again.

If any of you reading this happen to find yourself heading to Estadia Crew in the next few weeks, you will not have to look hard for the Nordecke. We will be standing as one in the northeast corner, singing the praises of Guillermo, Robbie, Frankie, and the rest of the Crew, until the final whistle blows and we salute another home win in front of the best fans in MLS, the ever-present and ever-noisy Nordecke.

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