Columbus Crew 1996
1996 Club by Club
The Crew's foundation began to take shape on February 6, 1996, when Columbus selected Brian McBride, a two-time All-American forward from Saint Louis University, with the first overall selection in the Inaugural MLS Draft.
Joining McBride on the first Crew-roster was the team's first allocated player, international superstar Doctor Khumalo arguably the most famous player ever to play for South Africa, and Brian Maison-neuve, the 1994 Hermann Trophy winner from Indiana University.
Playing its home matches at historic Ohio Stadium, the Crew kicked off it's inaugural season al "The Horseshoe" against D.C. United in front of a crowd of 25,266. Using two McBride goals and great goalkeeping from Bo Oshoniyi, the Black & Gold cruised lo the first victory in team history, blanking United 4-0.
The team's first season was a roller coaster ride that saw the Crew endure the resignation of head coach Timo Liekoski 22 games into season. Despite that, the Crew was able to rally and go 9-1 in its last 10 games under interim coach Tom Fitzgerald, joining Fitzgerald as a catalyst for the stretch run was goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who went 8-1 down the stretch.
With the late-season surge, the Crew earned its first playoff berth. On Sept. 25, the Crew hosted its first-ever playoff game, dropping a 2-0 decision to the Tampa Bay Mutiny. Although Columbus rallied to win Game 2, the Mutiny's home-field advantage proved lo be too much to overcome and the Black & Gold were eliminated in three games. Crew fans were also winners in 1996, as they were voted "best fans in the league" by USA Today. In its first season, the Crew averaged 18,950 per game and drew its single-game record crowd of 31,550 to the Sept. 15 regular-season finale, which ended in a 2-0 victory over the MetroStars.
In addition to being the best fans, the "Crew Experience" was graded an outstanding entertainment value by Gentleman Associates, an Indianapolis-based research firm that conducted such surveys in 1996.