--Have you guys ever seen a more exciting 0-0 game than the one in Atlanta last Thursday?
BP - Me? I'm sure I have, but this one was right up there. End to end, some posts and cross bars struck. Great goalkeeping. Tons of running. Great game!
GB - Really don't think I have. I sure can't remember one, of for no reason than it was a win-or-be-done knockout match. And to look at the scoreline doesn't do the match justice. Lots of opportunities, and lots of offense. I was on my feet the last 40 minutes.
--Crew goalie Zach Steffen looked to these eyes to be playing at a World Cup level. Was he just having a good night or is he destined for big things?
BP - Whatever happens to Crew SC this kid needs a serious look. So athletic! That save he made to open the PK shootout is as good as it gets. As the ESPN guys pointed out he had to essentially reach behind himself to flick it out of danger. You can't teach that shit.
GB - Let's not just look at this game. Lets not forget that he robbed Eurolegend David Villa the game prior, both on a PK and on a point-blank shot as well. When the season started, I wasn't sure what to make of him, but he's absolutely made a statement. The USMNT would be crazy not to give him a look. Tim Howard and Brad Guzan aren't the youngest of guys, and by the time you tack on four more years in age and wear-and-tear, I think it'll be time for the next generation to step in and make their statements.
--When a Crew goal was taken away for offside and not reviewed my conspiracy senses started tingling. Isn’t the Crew advancing embarrassing for the league?
BP - I won't buy into conspiracy theories because MLS linesmen have always been garbage. Nothing new. Is a Crew SC run potentially embarrassing? No. I don't think they're capable of embarrassment. Is it awkward? Maybe. I don't know. These people used to have a good business plan. I think they threw it out a few years back.
GB - Here's the thing on that. The whistle blew. That stops the play and prevents review. Was the whistle premature? Absolutely. Did the official let play go on longer shortly after this one, which would have allowed a review if it had been needed? Yep. Conspiracy? I'm not ready to go there. Alternately, the official realized on the Crew SC goal/nongoal that he'd screwed the pooch, and made sure he administrated correctly the next time. As far as Columbus advancing, I don't think it's an embarrassment so much as simple business. We talk about it every year when a smaller market NFL or NBA team goes to the finals...the leagues are going to want the markets to advance that will put the most eyeballs on the most television sets in order to maximize their visibility. Simple business. The embarrassment goes around Teh Drama. There are eyes all over the soccer world on #SaveTheCrew signs, from College Gameday (WELL DONE, FANS!!!) to other supporters' groups around the league. The unspoken secret here would be that, the farther Columbus advances, the more eyeballs that are gonna be drawn to it, with Columbus Crew SC playing the Little Engine That Could., and picking up support from those other teams' supporter groups at least for the short-term.
--Along those lines,with the USA failing to qualify for the World Cup, isn’t this possible move of an original team another black eye for the sport?
BP - Yes. Terrible black eye. The fact that MLS doesn't seem to see that is a huge problem.
GB - It's unbelievably shortsighted. The thing they missed is that, no matter how much other supporters' groups might make fun of our stadium here, every one of them love it when they come to support the USMNT here. Every single one of them. Dos A Cero took on a life of its own, and until the USMNT lost in the most recent Mexico qualifier, US Soccer, oth the men and women, were undefeated in Columbus. Considering that the US didn't make the World Cup, that can hardly be blamed on Columbus. There's an aura here for a US match that doesn't exist anywhere else. The players love coming here for that reason. The reaction around the league makes it look even worse for the decision makers. The fact that they're looking at a smaller market as an alternate doesn't do any better. The market has been unable to support USL teams, so it's a big risk as well. If you go there and it falls flat (as I believe it would), you have a bunch of smart people looking remarkably silly.
--Has Precourt been half assing on purpose to make the move easier?
BP - I think so. Look at the marketing for the playoff game. Nothing... It's on a Tuesday... On Halloween (there's your MLS conspiracy if you want one.) No marketing. Ticket sales entirely driven by the incredible people at #SaveTheCrew.
GB - There are a lot of folks who think so. I'm not so sure. I do think that parts of the business community don't take Columbus Crew as seriously as I wish they would. I look at things like the time it took to sell our stadium's naming rights or the difficulty in securing jersey sponsors. I don't know the cause of that in the case of the jersey sponsor, but I fear that the stadium rights took the amount of time it did because our stadium is the oldest in the league and was built on a budget. If you're spending Big Corporate Dough out of your marketing/advertising budget, you want the Newst/Shiniest, and our beloved stadium isn't that.
-- is there a scenario where the Crew stay? What is the mood like in Austin? What do they have that we don’t?
BP - I get the feeling Austin doesn't give a shit. It's a great town. They have UT sports, great live music, and kick ass food. Why do these shitheads need our soccer team? Fuck them. Sure Crew SC can stay. It seemed like a joke to compare this to the movie Major League, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a cut out of Precourt as crazy as this story is turning out to be. If the lads win MLS cup or even go deep in the playoffs I can't imagine the league would let this go forward, but I really don't know. I go back and forth.
GB - Can the team stay? I say yes. This groundswell has been incredible. Getting 2000+ out to the rally at City Hall was big. Had 200 people shown up, those visuals go everywhere, and the air comes out of the tires. That didn't happen. People are engaged, and a good kind of mob mentality takes over. The support from around the league has been impressive. At least one owner tweeted out support before deleting it. The owners in the league have to okay this for it to happen. The more team owners hear from their own supporters, the less likely they are to support a move. This doesn't end on Tuesday, or even this season. All eyes are going to be on the yellow benches at MAPFRE Stadium. If you can see them, then there aren't people sitting in them. The most critical statement that can be made is the economic one. The stadium has to look good throughout the season. Butts have to fill the seats, beer has to be bought, food has to be purchased...Columbus fans have to up their game, and show their support. If they get mad at PSV (Precourt Sports Ventures) and don't show up, they prove his argument, and we can't do anything but be sad. You want the team to stay? You gotta vote with your dollars. I don't know what they have that we don't, but I know what WE have that THEY don't...a team history and tradition that started in 1994 as the first franchise awarded.
--On to the game Tuesday, what should fans expect and how do you see it playing out?
BP - Crew SC will come out looking to get the jump on NYCFC. NY have some great skill, but throughout their brief existence they've lacked quality in the back. We play on a huge field compared to them in Yankee Stadium (very small for soccer.) Stretch em out and run at them. Get up big in game one. It's a two game total goal series. Americans hate this format, but soccer fans are used to it. (Champions League knock out play etc.
GB - The atmosphere in there is going to be insane. The Nordecke has sold out their section and are expanding to other sections. The place is gonna be nuts. Supporters' groups and the team both are setting up trick-or-treating (or trunk-or-treating in the parking lot before gates open) so kids don't have to miss out. That's going to lead to some insane adrenaline for our guys, but let's not forget that Atlanta had almost 70-freaking-thousand people there, and their fans couldn't will them over the top. Our guys have to, in the words of Alejandro Moreno during the 2008 MLS Cup run, do what they do. I'm hoping that Zack Steffen is inside NYCFC's heads. Those were a couple of major saves he put on Villa, and they've had some time to think about that. Josh Williams is in great form right now, and Pedro Santos is looking better and better every match. We have them on our field and dimensions for a match, but they get us in their little shoebox for the other match. We can make this work. We can advance. We're on a hot stretch and there's no reason to think we can't continue
Brian Phillips hosts the CD1025 Morning Show and you have seen Greg Bartram's photos everywhere. They are both fans of the Columbus Crew.