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Crew players got extra boost with family and friends in stands against Union

The 250 people at MAPFRE Stadium for Wednesday’s win was a nice bonus for the Black & Gold.

Sam Fahmi

Wednesday was a big day for Columbus Crew SC in many ways. The Black & Gold got a win against a great Philadelphia team, its first in the last three matches, scored the team’s first goal in 13 days and got a seventh clean sheet of the 2020 season. The team was also able to celebrate the victory in front of actual people in the stands — not the virtual fans of the MLS is Back Tournament — for the first time in six months.

The game against the Union was attended by 250 friends and family of the club, the first attendance above zero since Columbus’ 1-1 draw against the Seattle Sounders back on March 7. It was the first time supporters of any kind graced the seats at MAPFRE Stadium since the week prior to that Seattle game. This was all a precursor to the Crew having more fans attend Sunday’s match against FC Cincinnati, making Wednesday a taste of things to come.

For the players and head coach Caleb Porter, having their friends and family finally get to see them play live made Wednesday’s 1-0 victory that much more special.

“I think every little bit helps,” said Porter. “We have a team of guys, and I love this in my teams, that have wives and kids. I always say it’s a good sign when your players start getting married and have babies because they want to stay and they love the club and they trust the club and that’s what we want. Once we get a good group together we want to keep it together.

“I know a lot of guys are family guys on this team and I am a family guy as well so I think it’s really important that you find balance in this. We work very hard in what we do. It’s not a 9:00 to 5:00 job but it’s a long journey every season and it is important that you kind of smell the roses outside of football and spend time with your family and if your family can share in it, it’s always I think a help.”

For the players, having family at a home game is pretty common but, like for fans who haven’t been able to attend games, that has not been common practice in 2020. The unique aspect of Wednesday is these close friends and family were the only ones in the stands that were cheering. And according to midfielder Darlington Nagbe, the players could “hear everything.”

“I think it’s good having family and friends there at the game,” said Nagbe. “We’ve played some games without them and as professionals, we get along and move along with it but having them there I think is just that extra bonus. We play for them, we play this game for them to make a living and support them so their support is appreciated and hopefully we can get some more people in the stadium.”

An added touch to Wednesday’s game was when the families helped announce the starting lineups pregame via pre-recorded videos on the MAPFRE Stadium scoreboard. While the Nordecke wasn’t there to cheer along, this surprise, as Nagbe confirmed the players were unaware of it prior to the game, was an additional bonus.

“That was pretty cool to see. I appreciate it and I am sure all the guys appreciate it,” said Nagbe.

The Crew will have more than just family and friends at Sunday’s match for the Hell is Real Derby where Caleb Porter will try to “pick the Jaap Stam lock,” as he put it, in front of 1,500 fans at MAPFRE Stadium.