Following the Columbus Crew’s 2-0 loss at home on Saturday to the New England Revolution, it would be an accurate statement to say fans are a tad upset with the direction the team are heading.
Columbus have now suffered defeat in six of their last nine games, and have yet to put together back to back wins this season. Given the team’s current position in the conference table — eighth, behind rivals Chicago and steadily slipping towards the loathsome levels of Toronto below us — the continuous calls for the heads of coach Robert Warzycha and the Crew front office don’t seem so extreme.
The last few home matches have seen the Nordecke tossing pink slips in the air every time Warzycha is introduced before kickoff. Banners hung around the stadium call for the front office to go with him. #SackWarzycha accompanies hundreds of Crew-related tweets each match day. A Change.org petition even exists to oust the former Crew legend. All of these added together: prime signs of an extremely distressed support.
And you know what? They have every right to be mad.
Inconsistency rules the roost for the Crew, which is frustrating because of the occasional glimpses of the potential this squad possesses. But when we do get to see it, it vanishes the next match just as quickly as it appeared. The coach doesn’t seem to know how to get that full potential out of the players week after week, and management doesn’t seem capable of acknowledging that fact. With the odds of tripping into the playoffs slimming with every dropped point, it’s maddening that it seems like nobody is willing or cares to do anything about it.
And because of all of that, the Crew’s loyal support seem on the verge of gathering the pitchforks and torches and marching down Hudson Street to light the front office on fire.
But personally, I think the anger with the team is misplaced.
The biggest issue with the Crew’s situation right now, hands down, can be tied to the owners — Hunt Sports Group (HSG) — and their future plans for the club.
Remember that HSG not only own the Crew, but also own FC Dallas and the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. They’ve also openly stated on multiple occasions that they’re attempting to at least bring in new, local investors. However, many still suspect that they the Hunts would be more than willing to pawn the team off on a new ownership group entirely if they can find one.
To their credit, HSG are not just handing the team over to anyone who says they have the money. That they haven’t actually found a suitable owner could indicate that they A) just haven’t found the right group yet, or B) nobody is that interested. How quickly they’re able to unearth proper investors, nobody seems to quite have a pulse on. But with two other teams to run, it seems that HSG are doing everything in their power to minimize the amount of money they lose on the Crew until a suitable buyer can be identified. And that’s the root of the Crew support’s problem.
Unfortunately, firing Robert Warzycha — regardless of how popular and/or logical of an idea that is — will cost the Crew a lot of money. Dispatching of Warzycha means you have to buy out the little remaining time on his contract, which runs through the end of the season. In addition to that cleanup cost, you also have to pay a new manager to do the same job Warzycha was doing; a double hit on the salary front. And that’s not even accounting for the possible need to buy out the replacement man’s contract too. You would hope the guy taking over a “top-tier” side like the Crew would already be employed elsewhere, right?
Furthermore, simply naming a new manager is no guarantee that he’ll actually be able turn around the Crew’s fortunes. It’s completely plausible that the new boss could lead the Black and Gold to an even worse position than they find themselves in now. Think how pissed everyone would be if that happened.
In short, firing Warzycha or anyone else in the Crew front office would cost the Hunts too much damn money.
With the end of the season just over the horizon, Bob’s contract can be allowed to expire in the off season and he’ll leave for no more than the money the club would have been out anyway. And I’d be willing to wager a fair bit of money that HSG are going to do exactly that. So we, the fans, would probably do well to accept that fact. The Hunts probably know that Warzycha has lost the team, but they won’t do anything about it because doing nothing now will cost them nothing extra in the long-term.
Now maybe an argument could be made that Crew front office could have been more open and forthcoming about the situation. And while I think that works well in theory… it’s really a pipe dream, at best. Would you ever openly badmouth your boss if he wasn’t doing his job to your liking? I doubt it. So it’s silly to expect the Crew front office to pin the blame on their bosses for not allowing them to drop the metaphorical guillotine.
So while I understand everyone’s frustrations — hell, I share many of them — I think the best thing we can do right now is continue supporting the team. There’s been a small, but vocal minority of the fan base talking about abandoning the Crew because they can’t take it anymore. Don’t do that; it will do nothing but undermine all of the work that everyone (the Crew FO, the fans, and the local soccer community) has put to get us here. Quit now? Do that and we may as well gift wrap the club and offer it up to Beckham for relocation.
Instead, we should all still go out to the stadium, watch the matches on TV, and sing and cheer for the players out on the pitch. You know most of them want to win; they’re just caught in the middle of the crossfire. But just continuing on isn’t enough, either. Bring out your friends and grow the movement. Let the front office and the league know that we’re still here; show them that, even when the team is struggling on the field, there’s still a passionate, invested and flourishing support in place off of it.
Maybe that would be enough to convince a small gang of suitably wealthy local businessman that the Crew — and their fan base — are worthy of the investment necessary to not only sustain a club, but also take it on to bigger and better things.