All they needed was one, just one goal.
Columbus Crew SC fell 1-nil to Toronto FC in Canada tonight in the second (and decisive) leg of the 2017 MLS Eastern Conference Final, thereby preventing the black & gold from hosting an MLS Cup for the ages. Admittedly, as a Crew fan from the beginning, it’s difficult to find the words in this trying moment. The chances were there for that critical one away goal, but Justin Meram and Ola Kamara couldn’t place the ball in the back of the net.
That one goal was right there…
By the way, huge props to the next USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen for another fantastic penalty kick save in the 26th minute.
And in predictable snake-like behavior, MLS Commissioner Don Garber claimed he was “stuck in traffic” so he didn’t have to answer questions live on FS1 regarding his active participation in the deception, sabotage and attempted removal of the Crew from Columbus. Without diving deep tonight into the ongoing shameful acts by Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt, Crew SC President of Business Operations Andy Loughnane, Precourt Sports Ventures President Dave Greeley and MLS Commissioner Don Garber, I have just one thing to say right now:
The #SaveTheCrew movement is not over and will continue far beyond this MLS post-season. The efforts behind the rallying cry “We’re not done yet” will not yield because if Columbus ceases to be home to a professional soccer club, then so goes the identity and beating heart of American soccer in its capital city.
Soccer games rarely go according to a script, unless that script is manipulated by a deceitful owner and complicit league commissioner. The Columbus Crew SC tied Toronto FC nil-nil in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Final in front of a capacity crowd last night, dispersed inside and outside the stadium.
As attendees have shown via Twitter for the second consecutive Crew playoff game in Columbus, and the second home game post-Anthony Precourt’s maddening Austin announcement, uncharacteristically long lines of fans trying to get into a purposefully (and shameful) reduced number of entrances into the stadium before kickoff again proves the owner of the Crew will stop at nothing to sabotage his own club’s local support on prime time television. Sitting in my seat after arriving more an hour and a half before kickoff, the three gentlemen who filled my row in section 128 to my left several minutes into the match excited, yet visibly pissed off. Immediately after sitting down next to me, one of these guys said there was still a crazy large number of fans trying to get into Crew Stadium through an unusually long bottleneck formation. He said he’d never seen a backup like this at Crew Stadium…ever. I proceeded to say “Precourt’s acting like an asshole again” and he replied, “Yeah!”
The game on the pitch had its fair share of kickball and poor passes, yet there were half a dozen quality moments that nearly redefined the outcome as a raucous and triumphant 2-nil victory for the Crew against the 2017 Supporters Shield winner Toronto FC. Now, those two goals weren’t scored. That’s the reality. However, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram and Ola Kamara and Co. certainly had chances. If they had scored, the 21,289 fans would’ve erupted (possibly in a literal sense).
A nil-nil result is not the best result, nor is it the worst for Columbus. Not conceding an away goal was a major plus last night. Still, a goal or two for Columbus would have been insanely good. Once again, that didn’t happen, so we must move on to reality. Now, if Columbus scores an away goal and wins or ties 1-0 or 1-1, the Crew will shock the world and move onto MLS Cup. But with Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco back for the second leg (Toronto FC’s offensive firepower), at least one goal will likely be scored for the Canadian side, if not two under reasonable expectations. The positive news for the Crew is their style is offensive-minded, therefore, expect the final third crew in black & gold to be ready to counter and attack, attack, attack.
That one away goal for the Crew could be their ticket to host MLS Cup. Two goals for the Columbus would, barring the unthinkable collapse of the backline and the incredible Zack Steffen, deflate “the greatest team in the history of MLS.”
That’s the best, or most likely, case scenario on the pitch.
Off the pitch, an ongoing PR nightmare for Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt and MLS Commissioner Don Garber might be the only solution to change the stalemate calculus for #SaveTheCrew at this point. In the age of social media and 24/7 news, that’s possible. Once again, the drumbeat against these snakes must keep getting louder and more visible to the powers that be in MLS who have influence above MLS Commissioner Don Garber. And by “powers that be,” I mean the big money men and women who sponsor and fund MLS, including owners who might still understand the difference between right and wrong.
If the Crew can pull-off an Eastern Conference Championship, then Columbus would host MLS Cup because of a higher regular season point total compared to the Western Conference Final teams Seattle and Houston. The 2017 Crew has been called “a team of destiny” and the chance to host MLS Cup would be fitting for this wild script that’s been unfolding throughout the past couple months.
Imagine the Crew hosting MLS Cup with a sold-out Crew Stadium on the biggest day and stage for MLS with chants locked-and-loaded with vocal support by 20,000 or more deeply passionate fans ready to further publicly highlight the deception and sabotage of its host owner and MLS Commissioner for all of MLS to see…
If last night was any indication, Columbus isn’t done yet. Not even close. This Crew, on-and-off the pitch, won’t stop working.
P.S. Michael Bradley’s 2017 tour as an ungrateful, entitled a$$hole continues after he commented on the Crew’s potential move to Austin as a sound decision, as well as that Crew Stadium is essentially unworthy of his presence during a post-match interview last night. What about the amazing atmosphere of Dos-a-Cero, Mr. Bradley? This coming from a player who led the USMNT’s supremely pathetic campaign in which they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup next summer. Although, now it’s like father, like son in terms of former USMNT Head Coach Bob Bradley and USMNT captain Michael Bradley each being responsible for throwing an entire World Cup cycle down the drain (2010 and 2018).
Moreover, if the Crew end up hosting MLS Cup, you can guess who will be invited to sit in the owner’s box beside Anthony Precourt, Andy Loughnane, Dave Greeley and Don Garber. Columbus and U.S. soccer fans won’t soon forget what’s happened this year, as well as who said what.
Columbus Crew SC 0 – Toronto FC 0
Not the best case scenario, but also not the worst.
Just getting back home from the nil-nil draw between the best damn fans in MLS land, more reflection, and analysis on tonight’s tense game will follow tomorrow. One thing’s for sure at this moment, which is that the city of Columbus continues to solidify its rightful place as THE soccer capital of the United States of America. The fans who rocked the sold-out Crew stadium on this chilly November night were passionate, excited and inspiring. The history of the Crew in MLS (and USMNT’s Dos-a-Cero) is unmatched.
Once again, the very identity of American soccer, let alone MLS, is at stake with keeping the Crew and professional soccer in Columbus. And fans let everyone in Crew Stadium hear it with more chants for Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt, as well as sporting a special banner before kickoff that will be featured in tomorrow’s blog post.
Until next Wednesday’s second leg of the Eastern Conference Final in Toronto, let’s all memorize and sing the newest Crew chant inspired by the timeless classic (and very appropriate) Les Misérables.
“We’re not done!”