Hello and welcome back to “The view from the Nordecke,” where I try to distill the vibes in the terraces for Columbus Crew fans’ reading pleasure.
The energy heading into kickoff on Saturday around Lower.com Field was electric, propelled by the first game day at home with decent weather this season. The Nordecke was buoyed early on by a big chance for Derrick Etienne Jr. that went just wide and then again when Lucas Zelarayan’s free kick hit the crossbar, eliciting disappointed groans.
Orlando City SC’s goal scored by Rodrigo Schlegel took the air out of the building and persistent calls of offside from the spectators that built all the way into a bonafide “VAR” chant came to nothing as the referee gave the goal after some tantalizing touching of his earpiece.
At this point in the match, the mood turned decisively negative and it never recovered. Frustration grew and, as the second half kicked off, calls of “shoot” grew in their frequency and insistence. Sometimes it was warranted and sometimes it wasn’t, but it had less to do with specific instances of inhibition and more to do with a simmering frustration that the team held onto the ball too long with nothing to show for it in terms of a final product.
In the 50th minute, Orlando doubled the team’s advantage and that simmer boiled over into anger. The Nordecke got a ray of hope when they saw Gyasi Zardes preparing to enter the match and promptly launched into a round of “Hey Gyasi,” trying to sing into existence a goal from the California striker. His introduction, as well as that of center back Josh Williams, brought huge cheers from the crowd; the latter has not featured for the Black & Gold yet this season due to injury and he is certainly a fan favorite.
As the 80th minute neared, the crowd remained defiant but it became harder and harder to believe that the Crew was going to score twice to tie the game in what time remained, let alone the three times necessary for a victory. In the game’s dying minutes the singing was replaced by angry shouting and muttering. Some fans around the grounds left early as stoppage time ticked on, and those who stuck around were left without much to show for it.
At the final whistle, Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, whose Lions defended the end closest to the Nordecke in the second half, turned around and taunted fans by flashing a zero with his hands and pointing at the goal, emphasizing the shutout. Several attendees made some choice gestures of their own in return, but at the end of the day, there’s not much to say in reply.
As the Columbus players and coaches made their way to the Nordecke, the fans broke into “Wise Men” but fell out of sync, with at least two different groups ending at different times. A good effort but just short of the mark in the end, similar to the performance on the field.
Dancing in the Dark (Meat)
In an attempt to lighten the mood Saturday, we turn to the culinary side of Lower.com Field. Saturday’s featured menu item comes from Hot Chicken Takeover, located just inside the Northwest gate. I had the drumsticks and the seasoning was smoky and hot without overpowering, the skin was crispy and the meat was succulent.
One of my dining companions had the vegan nuggets and reported the approximation to the real thing was commendable. Overall I give the experience 4.5 stars out of 5 but Hot Chicken Takeover can buy that holdout 0.5 with its weight in pickles.
Miguel Berry headband watch
You may have noticed that after six games, Berry got a haircut and thus abandoned his hairband, rendering this recurring bit pointless. When he wore a headband, the Crew went a perfectly balanced 2-2-2, as all things should be.