It’s a closer call than one might think.
On any given night in Crew Stadium, it’s difficult to gauge whether there is more energy being expended on the field of play or in the Nordecke, a section in the northeast corner of the stadium where the rowdiest of the Crew fans gather.
These black-and-gold-clad super fans are loud and boisterous from whistle to whistle.
They sing, cheer and chant for their team in words occasionally not fit for print in a family paper. They could be described as “hooligans lite.”
A casual observer might mistake the section for an early Halloween party run amok. It’s not unusual for pirates, skeletons and other such oddities to be interspersed throughout the crowd.
As the Columbus Crew and their zealous fans gear up for another run in the MLS playoffs, the importance of the crowd and the Nordecke in particular isn’t lost on those associated with the team.
When asked about the significance of the recent 22-game home unbeaten streak snapped by Seattle last Saturday, Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer’s thoughts turned quickly to the fans.
“Mostly for me, I’m really disappointed for the fans because ever since they put together that Nordecke section, we’ve made this place a fortress, and we’ve fought hard for them,” Hesmer said. “It can’t help but be infectious to the guys on the field.”
He’s not the only one who appreciates what these energetic fans bring to the table.
Seattle Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid, who has been on both ends of the sidelines as the home and visiting coach, has a special perspective.
“This is a tough place to play,” the former Crew coach said. “The Nordecke has been great. Their support and the atmosphere, you know you are at a soccer venue.”
With a win against the New England Revolution (10-9-8) this Saturday in Gillette Stadium, the Crew (12-5-10) would become the Eastern Conference regular season champions and lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs up to the MLS Cup.
A draw, which yields one point, would eliminate the Revolution from catching the Crew in the standings and leave the Chicago Fire six points back with only two matches remaining.
The tiebreaker, a combination of head-to-head matchups and goal totals, would then go to the Crew.
Another achievement that is tantalizingly close for the Crew is a second straight Supporters Shield, the honor given to the team with the highest point total in the MLS at the end of the season.
Columbus holds a two-point lead on the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo for the Shield, at 46-44.
There are only three regular season MLS games remaining on the Crew’s schedule, including home and away contests against New England.
With their most dedicated fans in tow, the Crew look to recreate the magical run of last year to the MLS championship.