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Despite 4-1 Victory, Columbus Crew Draws Mixed Emotions From Home Crowd

Fans holding signs with slogans like "Save the Crew" packed into MAPFRE Stadium Tuesday night to cheer on the soccer club in the first home game since news about a potential move to Austin, Texas.

It was a chilly night for the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Columbus Crew fans showed up with painted faces, large banners, and mixed emotions. 

"In a lot of ways, this is like a sad game," said Julia Hinten. "But it’s an exciting game, we really wanna see the Crew go as far as they can." 

Hinten and her husband ditched their kids for Halloween to support the Crew.

"We made the choice to skip trick or treating to come here," Hinten said, laughing. "That was a big deal in itself."

The sacrifice was worth it: The home team pulled through with a 4-1 win over New York City FC, adding more fuel to their playoff run. The Crew has not lost since August 5.

The win was still bittersweet, though, as it came two weeks after team owner Anthony Precourt announced the team will be relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2019 unless a new downtown stadium is built.

Fans like Danny Swift hope this latest win will change Precourt’s mind.

"I mean, when you see this kind of atmosphere in a playoff game, like especially if you go to one at all, how can you move a team that wins a whole championship?" Swift said. 

Columbus Crew players celebrate a goal.
Credit Jay LaPrete / Associated Press
Associated Press
Columbus Crew players celebrate their goal against New York City FC during the second half of an MLS playoff game on October 31.

Precourt himself attended the game, drawing expletive-filled jeers from fans: "C-R-E-W f– you Precourt we are the Crew."

The crowd packed the Nordecke, the section where fans stand and cheer the entire game, and broke into several chants of “Save the Crew." The stadium was also filled with signs imploring Precourt to keep the team in Columbus.

Going into the game, fan Randy Sims, who traveled from West Virginia, was confident the Crew would win.

"We’re gonna win," Sims said. "There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that we’re gonna come up with the points that we need to get to the next level." 

Sims said he's trying to take in every last moment with “the boys."

"Very emotional," he said. "I have been fortunate enough to be at the two away games as well. And this old man has done some crying with the announcement."

About 14,500 fans attended Tuesday night's game, but MAPFRE Stadium has a capacity of about 20,000. Crew attendance has fallen behind other teams this season—average attendance during the regular season was third-to-last in all of Major League Soccer.

Credit Adora Namigadde / WOSU
Columbus Crew's match against NYC FC drew just over 14,000 fans, far short of MAPFRE Stadium's 20,000 capacity.

Amy and John Cruise say the threat of losing the team made them realize how important it is to them.

"We understand Anthony Precourt’s here to watch the game tonight," Amy Cruise said. "And we hope he sees the passion and support Columbus has for this team."

Executive with the Crew, MLS, and Columbus city leaders have said they’ll meetto discuss the team’s future in the city. The meeting is supposed to happen in the next few weeks, but few other details have been released.

Columbus Crew SC will face New York City FC again on Sunday, Nov 5, in New York.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.