This month, as TEB continues to look at football in the United States, we go back to the beginning of Major League Soccer (MLS) and chat about club number one.
On June 15 1994, MLS announced that Columbus Ohio would have a club in the new professional league.
The owners of the club were Lamar Hunt (who later had the US Open Cup named after him), a man who owned a club in the old North American Soccer League(NASL) as well as the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, South African international Doctor Khumlo and future US National Team striker Brian McBride who was the first overall pick in the 1996 draft.
The first match was played at Ohio Stadium in downtown Columbus in front of 25,000 people which they lost 4-0 to DC United.
They struggled in their first season and midway through Timo Liekoski, a former US National Team coach, was replaced by Tim Fitzgerald. The Crew reached the 1998 US Open Cup final but lost to their arch-rivals Chicago Fire and to make matters worse it was in their stadium in Chicago.
In 1999, they opened the first MLS soccer specific stadium, Crew Stadium which is now known as Mapfre Stadium and beat the New England Revolution in the opening fixture there. In 2002 they won their first piece of silverware, winning the US Open Cup against LA Galaxy. That season they went on to the Eastern Conference semi-finals which they lost out to New England as future NBC commentator Kyle Martino won rookie of the year.
The year 2007 was a big year in MLS history as David Beckham signed with the LA Galaxy. For their part, the Crew signed Alejandro Moreno and former Boca Juniors legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto, but still missed the play-offs but 2008 was an amazing year for the club.
They won Supporters Shield (awarded to the club with the best record) as well as the MLS Cup against New York Red Bull before following that up with the Supporters Shield again a year later but could not repeat their cup success after losing out to Real Salt Lake.
In 2013 Anthony Precourt bought the club and started making changes. He named former Palace defender and US international Greg Berhalter sporting director and coach after stints as assistant at LA Galaxy and manager of Hammarby IF in Sweden.
Berhalter experienced MLS success at LA Galaxy before ending his playing career in 2011 after time at Energie Cottbus and 1860 Munich.
In 2014, Precourt changed the name to Columbus Crew SC as well as the badge. He eventually changed the home and away jerseys too, which sparked plenty of negative press.
Columbus are enjoying a successful season in the MLS having just reached the Conference Final after seeing off New York City in the semi-finals of the MLS Cup. They face favourites Toronto in what will be a tough task but Berhalter will no doubt have a plan so watch this space.
Talking to the media after the victory over New York, Berhalter said; “It feels good. The aim was to advance and we managed to do that. What I would say for New York City is that they played well. It was a different team to that in the first leg, and I imagine as a coach when you’re playing an elimination game you want to come out and bring your best stuff, and they certainly did that so we were happy to advance. It wasn’t our best game, but we got through.”
Berhalter and his Crew host Toronto in the Conference Final first leg at the Mapfre Stadium on 21 November with the second leg taking place on 29 November. We wish the former Palace man and his team the best of luck and hope to see them reach the MLS Cup Final which will take place on 9 December.