It began last year when 2,200 Toronto FC fans made the trip down to Columbus, Ohio, to watch their Reds in the opening game of the 2007 season.
To say that Toronto supporters took over on that day would be an understatement as the north end of Crew Stadium filled with Red and deafening chants of, “This is our house,” left the Columbus supporters stunned.
At 4:30 a.m. this Saturday, thousands of Toronto fans will crawl on to buses and once again make their pilgrimage to Columbus — fresh with the fuel of one general manger’s opinion.
Mark McCullers, GM of Columbus, posted a video this week bragging about beating Toronto FC last year and suggesting its fans should show a little more respect.
“Toronto fans, they came down with no respect for our organization. They brought a large crowd, they thought they were going to come into Crew stadium and our house and just walk all over us … and basically we sent them home being a little more respectful.”
I have to question the sanity of a GM who attempts to inflame soccer supporter tempers ahead of a game that will already be fraught with tension — if only to sell more tickets.
MLS commissioner Don Garber stirred the pot himself this week crediting the birth of Columbus supporters’ culture as a direct result of Toronto’s massive show of support. I’m guessing a few Crew fans would take exception to that.
As did Jack Depoe, president of the Red Patch Boys supporters group, who quipped to me that if they did, indeed, father a Columbus child that it would certainly be “a bastard.”
The MLS is walking a fine line between sparking ticket sales, and outright provoking fans. For what it’s worth, Jack is a man who never condones fan violence. I can’t say that every MLS fan shares his approach.