To get everyone ready for the scariest 90 minutes of our respective lives, we spoke with Massive Report's Patrick Murphy to get his take on the Crew's troubling relocation talk, what they need to do differently against Atlanta, and gauging the success of their season.
You can also see what they wanted to know from us here.
DSS: Alright, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. What on earth is going on with Anthony Precourt? Do you think there’s actually a good chance the Crew leave Columbus?
MR: Your first question is the one that's been going around Columbus the last week plus. When Precourt bought the club, it seemed like things would be great going forward for Crew SC. He did all the right things at the beginning, upgrading parts of the stadium, the training grounds, taking the club through a much-needed rebrand. He also invested on the field, allowing Gregg Berhalter to add the players needed to compete in this league.
Then, this season, Precourt -- who is from the Bay Area -- was not around nearly as much. He's been in Columbus twice the whole season, which is noticeably less than any year prior. This was a bit confusing, but no one saw the announcement coming that he was looking at another city for a potential move. Even behind the scenes, the rumblings I heard of any relocation if things didn't improve on the finance said weren't referencing this quickly. It all came out very fast.
As for if the Crew will leave Columbus, yes. The team is as good as gone from everything I've heard and pieced together. To claim that a new stadium in a downtown location is necessary to keep this team in Columbus appears to be just window dressing in order to say "I asked for this and didn't get it so I had to leave." Plenty of teams around this league have stadiums in more inconvenient places than where MAPFRE Stadium sits, or don't even have stadiums (see New York City FC playing at Citi Field last week).
Without going on too long, I'll end with this. I think most Crew SC fans have come to the realization that this team is on its way out. While the efforts to #SaveTheCrew have been great (and that goes beyond just the Black & Gold fans), the chances at this point that Precourt remains in Columbus seem slim to none. He put an out clause in his contract that allowed him to move to Austin, so there has been some plan of this since the beginning.
DSS: On a bit of a lighter note, what do the Crew have to do differently against Atlanta compared to the two regular season matches they played?
MR: I think the biggest thing is not make key mistakes. You look back to the first meeting between the two clubs and Columbus had several chances through the first 30 minutes. A give away by Josh Williams at the back led to the first Atlanta goal and then the second came when rookie Niko Hansen turned the ball over to give Almiron the chance that led to the second finish.
Obviously these errors are due to United's pressure, but the Black & Gold have to be better in possession. Keep the ball and prevent these easy chances (easy for the talent of Atlanta, maybe not other teams) and these games may have turned out differently. That should be the focus in this contest.
DSS: In my personal opinion, Atlanta’s season is a success regardless of what happens on Thursday. Would that be the case with Columbus as well?
MR: That's a tough question. I think a lot of people were down on this team coming into the year with how last season finished, missing the playoff a season removed from making the MLS Cup Final. But after the way things played out, a 10-game unbeaten run to end the regular season, I think expectations increased.
With that said, I think most fans realize winning in Atlanta is a tough ask. Not only due to the crowd, but also because United is probably the worst matchup for Crew SC. With the team speed and willingness to hit on the counter, it's exactly what can and has hurt the Black & Gold in the past.
I think fans may understand a little bit losing to the Five Stripes, but I don't think the team will. The players have made it very clear that they don't fear anyone and don't mind going anywhere in this postseason. A lot of times that's talk, but you can sense the belief with this group right now after the run they've put on to close things out.