Before Friday night, longtime Columbus Crew SC supporters Brock Hemphill and Kevin Glenn were helping to make MAPFRE Stadium ready for what felt like a fairly routine World Cup qualifier on Tuesday against the 95th-ranked team in the world.
Now, they’re intervening in what many American soccer fans consider a national emergency.
The US men’s national team lost 2-0 at Guatemala on Friday night, making Tuesday’s home clash against the same opponents vital for the Americans. Should the US draw or lose on Tuesday, it becomes mathematically more difficult to them to advance to the final six-team CONCACAF qualifying round known as The Hex – which starts this November – for the right to play in the 2018 World Cup.
The Americans’ string of consecutive World Cup appearances dates back to Italy 1990, which ended a 40-year drought, and Hemphill and Glenn are among the fans who don’t want to see that streak end.
Hemphill, a longtime member of the
Hudson Street Hooligans
, and Glenn, who is a board member for the
Crew Supporters Union
, are also both leaders of the
, the US supporters’ group who raised American awareness of supporters culture to a whole new level in the buildup to the 2014 World Cup. They’re coordinating to have approximately 2,500 members add to the atmosphere in what they hope will be a sold-out stadium. While the
will be filled with Crew SC supporters pulling for the US, the AO fans will occupy Sections 134 and 135 and the bleachers on the stage behind the north goal.
There’s also an inspiring tifo in the works that a team of 15 supporters were working on Saturday; Hemphill won’t reveal the specific message, only hinting that, “There’s a play on words with the current team motto.” (Which is, of course, “One Nation, One Team.”)
They’re also hosting the traditional “Night Before” rally at the 4th Street Bar’s massive outdoor patio, as well as a game-day tailgate that starts at 2 pm ET, but will have some of them to the stadium by as early as 11 am.
“We really have to bring it on Tuesday, especially now that we’re third in the group,” Hemphill said. “Guatemala had a lot of atmosphere on Friday, so now we have to return that.”
Glenn considers MAPFRE Stadium to be one of the best in the nation for providing home-field advantage, noting that, “All those '
Dos a Cero
' games really helped us build up that legend.”
He referenced the 2013 Dirty Tackle article, previewing the World Cup-clinching match against Mexico, in which Brooks Peck joked that the term “soccer-specific stadium” loosely translates to “tiny demon fortress.”
Though the match has more of a nail-biting quality then when Glenn first began prepping for it – which included creating the Ohio-themed art that AO is using for its official game poster – it’s a welcome distraction from the defending Eastern Conference champions’ rocky start to the 2016 MLS season.
“We’re taking a week off from the Crew,” Glenn laughed. “We needed an international break, too.”