It was a brisk October morning at Columbus Crew SC’s training facility in Obetz on Saturday. Head coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff were bundled up and observing a spirited training session from the Black & Gold as the team looks to continue its push to the playoffs.
It was 85 degrees in the capital city just a week ago, but as the weather changed so did the fortunes of Crew SC. For 361 days, it seemed quite likely that the Black & Gold would relocate to Austin, Texas. Players, coaches and staff members waited patiently to find out if they might have a job or where it might be for the 2019 Major League Soccer season.
However, this past Friday, some clarity was provided. An investment group that includes Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslem and real estate developer Pete Edwards stepped up to purchase the team and keep the Crew in Columbus.
When news broke of the new ownership group, Crew SC defender Josh Williams had to see it for himself. The Copley, Ohio, native left the team’s chili cook-off to investigate.
“Jon Kempin came into the room and whispered in my ear asking if I heard the news,” Williams said. “He told me to check Twitter and as soon as I did, I just wanted to go to Endeavor to hear it straight from someone’s mouth. I wanted to be there and actually hear the words for myself.”
Williams arrived at the local bar to find a group of 20 or so Crew fans conversing with one another in the middle of the work day. He joined along and consumed a few beers with the supporters in attendance as he waited for the news. The announcement was delayed, but that didn’t bother the defender. Williams recalled drinking a few more beer to pass the time and continued socializing with Crew SC supporters.
“It was a cool time,” he said. “I just wanted to be there with the fans and be part of everything.”
Throughout this saga, Berhalter did a good job of keeping the focus of the team on the field but also had to make sure his players knew what was going on. While there wasn’t much concrete information over last year, he did finally have something to tell his players on Saturday at training.
“We are sharing as much information as possible,” the Crew SC head coach said. “I think that’s important for our group to be aware of what’s happening and to be up on current events.
We shared with them what we’ve learned, which is very similar to what you guys have learned, and our take on it is pretty simple: for all those loyal fans that stayed behind us and stayed supporting us, it was a wonderful day for them. Our team is focused on performing and continuing to perform to give the fans something to celebrate.”
Berhalter gave plenty of credit to those fans for helping the players and staff through the difficult time.
“With the uncertainty, there’s not many things that you can cling on to, but one of them is the fans, and their love for the club and the team,” he said. “When I go to the Nordecke after the game and I see these people and I see how excited they are and how much it means to them, it’s really touching and I enjoyed every single moment I had this year (being able to do that). It reminds you what you are performing for.”
Since joining Crew SC in 2015, defender Gaston Sauro and his family have embraced the city of Columbus. Despite playing in just 17 games in his first three seasons with the club, the defender became a fan favorite for his physical play on the field and his comical social media antics off the field.
Even though he missed the entirety of the 2017 season, Sauro had a different perspective of the Save The Crew movement than most of the roster. He got to see the fans in more intimate settings and understands the gravity of Friday’s news.
“I’m happy for the fans because they supported us knowing that the club might be moving,” said the Argentine defender. “I’m so happy for them, I think it’s good for everybody.”
One could make the case that this was the best outcome for the defender, who recalls a very special memory occurring in Central Ohio.
“I’m so happy that the club is staying here,” he said. ”I have a son that is from Columbus, and I will always have a special feeling for this city. I’m happy for the city, the fans and the club.”