As the new MLS season appears upon the horizon, many fans are looking to dust down their merchandise and vocal chords in preparation for welcoming their heroes back to the soccer field. And looking forward to it more than most are the Columbus Crew Supporters Group the ‘Yellow Nation Army’.

Despite a hectic schedule to juggle with I caught up with two members of the posse – Major Awareness and General Juicer – to get a greater insight into the set up and running of a Supporters Group as well as their hopes and aspirations on all things Crew.

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2012_YNA_LogoFirst and foremost how did the Yellow Nation Army Supporters Group begin ?

Well, we were Crew fans who had been season ticket holders for quite a few years who were impressed by the supporter groups that formed before us and decided we wanted to bring something different to the Nordecke (the Northern corner area where the Crew have sat all of the groups together). It’s initial concept came from Charlie’s Green Man idea from the TV show “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”, and Juicer thought the idea of the suits would interact well with the Crew events. Our first game ‘suiting-up’ as we like to call it came mid-season 2010 with the two of us and we’ve been doing it ever since with numerous other individuals joining our army.

How long has the group been going for ?

This will be our 4th season as a separate group from the other groups that were together (which in MLS terms is a quarter of the league’s existence if that sounds better).

Where are you situated during games at Crew Stadium ?

We typically get right in the middle of the action in the Nordecke, which is the area where the Crew have decided to combine the 5 supporter groups (Hudson Street Hooligans, Crew Union, La Turbina, Murder’s Row & ourselves) to make us more of a united voice to give the other team hell, but we are pretty easily identified thanks to the yellow suits anywhere in the stadium. We’re typically at the bottom of section 140, close enough to make sure our middle fingers are easily seen and voices heard by the opposing teams’ players.

lBefore any Crew soccer match, what activities are available for Supporters to endure prior to the start of the game ?

Each SG has their own tailgates and usually cook up some great food before the games (in addition to the beers previously mentioned and of course). Crew Union does an annual chili cook-off for the first game of the season, HSH (Hudson Street Hooligans) and MR (Murder’s Row) has brats and burgers throughout the season, and LTA (La Turbina Amarilla) is always cooking up some great Mexican food. At YNA we usually like to stick to a liquid diet prior to matches with a little food sprinkled in so we can conduct ourselves in a reasonable manner. YNA has hosted several events before tailgates including DAS BOOT line chug battles, raffles for charity, a car bashing, and other shenanigans. Juicer is known to be seen walking around the tailgate with a utility belt of liquor and beer for quick fixes to the world’s biggest problems.

The Crew has more ‘tame’ events inside the gate for family oriented fans that include inflatables, soccer fields, and a live band. It’s a great atmosphere inside the stadium gates or outside in the lot.

Soccer in America is renowned for great chants, what chants are you guys famous for ?

We have a few that were created in the corner that include “We All Cheer for the Yellow Soccer Team” (Beatles’ Yellow Submarine), a cheer that is a rendition of Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” modified for the Crew, and “C’mon Crew Lets Score a Goal…” which we are “supposedly” no longer allowed to use due to Crew front office expectations of us not dropping organized F-bombs.

ca-u-crew-01Many supporters groups require a process to become a fully-fledged member, what is the line to go down to become a member of the Yellow Nation Army ?

Our number qualification is you have to be a die-hard for the Crew. Beyond that, the only other requirements are you got to enjoy a good time, drinking a few brews, and pay a meagre membership fee that helps us support the group’s activities (with a portion of the fee also going to a couple of charities we have partnered with). And a willingness to ‘suit-up’ in a yellow spandex suit is never a bad thing for our group’s purposes (but is not an actual requirement).

What benefits and rewards are included in becoming a part of your group ?

Membership includes: a YNA t-shirt, a membership card, and discounts to our amazing sponsors: Wurst Und Bier (German sports-bar in Columbus… which by coincidence is where we are happily getting our grub on at this very moment), Lil’ Donut Factory, Capital City Scooter Shop, Longview Barber Shop, Title Boxing, Cafe del Mundo, and Wired Krazy Computers.

We are currently in the MLS off-season, what do you guys do during this period in the soccer calendar ?

Likely what anyone does this time of year or during your teams’ offseasons… watch our teams’ transactions, pray our front office doesn’t change what looked to be a promising team too drastically (which the Crew seem to do on an annual basis lately), and train our livers for the next season’s game days. We also take this opportunity to catch up on some international leagues, as well as take care of other items we may have neglected throughout the season, such as family, jobs, etc, etc, etc…

Kirk-Urso-memorial-patch-courtesy-of-Columbus-CrewLast season the Crew finished within one point of the play offs after a late season surge. How would you sum up that campaign ?

First word that comes to mind is frustrating. We had a lot of changes prior to the 2012 season that led to quite a few question marks as to how the team would do. Due to that and some injuries, the season got off to a slow start which put us in a hole straight from the get-go. After making some mid-season acquisitions, things were looking up and it had a lot of our hopes up for a good run into the playoffs. Then the team faltered coming down the home stretch where we dropped a few key matches and points that dashed our postseason hopes.

What strengths materialised throughout the season ?

Basically two names made a huge difference… Higuain and Arrieta. Our strikers were virtually non existent in the beginning of the season in 2012 and our scoring opportunities were very scarce. Our team played very defensively and usually from behind. After bringing in these two we developed a sudden nose for the goal. Quite honestly, our season would have been in shambles long before these two arrived if it wasn’t for the stellar play of our GK Andy Gruenebaum. He really saved our ass early in the season quite a few times and kept us in games we wouldn’t have had any chance of keeping close.

What needs to improve from last season to ensure the play-offs are a certainty this time around in 2013 ?

At this point, due to another off-season of a lot of surprising turnover, we need to bring in some quality players at defensive and mid-field and quality depth all around. Our head coach has been under scrutiny by many for the last couple of years because of the results on the field and we believe much of this is due to morale and team chemistry. We have a lot of talented players so if we can find a few more pieces of the puzzle and get this team to gel well then there is little doubt in our minds that we should be playoff-bound.

What three players in particular stood out to you ?

Coming from the previous season, our forward pairing of Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain and our Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum. Players to watch would have to include Josh Williams, Eddie Gaven and an honourable mention to Glauber as we are excited to see what he and our master of defense, Chad Marshall, will be able to do in the CB position.

higuainMidway through 2012 Columbus Crew signed their 3rd Designated Player Federico Higuain, what did he bring to the team during his first season in MLS ?

Everything. He completely changed the dynamic of the team. Arrieta came in and gave us a scoring boost, but when Higuain came we had someone who was a quality chance-producer and clinical finisher. He gave our team confidence that we were never out of a game as long as he was on the field… a confidence we hadn’t seen much of since the likes of Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

The Argentine clearly possesses natural technical qualities. What excites you most about Higuain ?

The measure of a truly good athlete is that even when they have great technical abilities, that you still are more impressed by their non-technical abilities. Things such as their vision, their ability to always be in the right place at the right time, or their ability to make a team completely better just by being on the field, etc. Higuain is one of those special players.

Federico Higuain managed to grace the MLS like a duck to water, what one particular highlight in the 2012 season stands out most to you ?

One of two moments… either when he scored off two free kicks in one game (which gave us a 4-3 win against the New England Revolution in August), or his finesse lob pass to Emilio Renteria in stoppage time that gave us a 2-1 win over Montreal I think a week later.

Within the second season many players find it hard to adapt, and the name given is ‘Second Season Syndrome’. What do you expect to see from Federico Higuain during the 2013 season ?

Higuain came out a few weeks ago and posted a tweet that basically said the playoffs are not good enough. We expect him to keep that mentality and we believe that as long as he does and that if a few other questions on the team work themselves out that the Crew will be back in the playoffs where anything is possible. He wants #AllOfThePlayoff!!!

2008743401Mr Warzycha was the right hand man to Sigi Schmid before he took the reins at Crew Stadium, was he clear to notice that Robert Warzycha was going to become a Head Coach one day ?

We think it’s safe to say that Sigi saw potential in Bobby to become a head man someday. Surely Sigi had the thought that once it was determined that he wasn’t coming back to the Crew in 09 that his understudy may take the reins.

Robert Warzycha has the supporters shield currently to show for his time in charge at Columbus Crew. What does he need to do to make the next step and achieve more MLS Cup success for the Organisation ?

He did lead a team to the Supporter’s Shield, but he did it with Sigi’s team (who were Supporter’s Shield AND the MLS Cup Champions the season before). Bobby’s teams have fallen further down the table each year, made early exits from the playoffs when they made it, and done poorly in US Open Cup play… the team seems to be on a down sloping trend. I think it’s safe to say that at the very least we expect playoffs each year, but when it all comes down to it, for Warzycha to get out of Schmid’s shadow he needs to win a championship. Columbus is the home of The Ohio State University, which has a number of athletic programs that have been quite successful over the years. That has bred a certain level of expectancy for great things from the athletes in this town. Bobby needs to absolutely step it up to meet our expectations.

WarzychaDo you feel he is the right man to continue to take the Organisation forward ?

There is absolutely a large group of Crew fans who do not believe Warzycha will be able to turn the down sloping trend around and we consider ourselves in that group. After another off-season house cleaning, that got rid of even more of the players we had enjoyed cheering for over the years, we fear the season may start off slow due to a lack of team chemistry since nearly 1/3 or more of the roster will be new. We just hope that if the season doesn’t shape up the way we expect it by the midway point that the Crew FO does not hesitate to make a switch and get someone in the position who can get this team where it should be before its too late.

urso_match_DL2The new season is a little over six weeks away. How are things shaping up at Crew ?

Sketchy. Due to the aforementioned team overhaul, we are again in a position of not having any depth and having numerous questions as to who will start at what position. For a team that was one point away from the playoffs last season, it is questionable whether the overhaul was justified and if our starting line-up for the first match of 2013 will indeed be better than the team we ended last season with. We’ve had a couple of decent signings with Glauber and Wahl that could potentially fill some of our holes, and our draft seemed to bring in a few other prospects that were proven winners from the collegiate ranks. Nonetheless, we are all hoping the Crew front office is nowhere near done with trying to improve this team before First Kick.

What are the team looking to achieve in the 2013 MLS campaign ?

From the players perspective we believe every one of them wants to win the Cup. The FOs commitment to the success of this club on the field has been a topic of discussion as of late and many feel their expectations have unfortunately diminished from year to year.

In the eyes of the Supporters what would you say is a suitable season for the Columbus Crew ?

Obviously, just like all supporters, we want a Cup! At a minimum we hope that the team achieves a top two regular season finish that would grant us the ability to make a deep playoff run.

Columbus Crew picked up Ryan Finley and Drew Beckie during the SuperDraft. What be expected of these guys during the season ahead ?

Finley & Beckie both had great collegiate careers, but obviously there is a learning curve when getting to the pros. We hope that both of them work their tails off to not only help the veterans in practice, but also to really make the coaches consider giving them playing time early and often.

finley_beckie_DLDo Crew have enough in the locker room to reinvent the success of 2008 ?

That is the million dollar question, and unfortunately we don’t have an easy answer. We have a lot of pieces that give us the potential for that kind of success, but we have so many questions of our own regarding how this team is going to play that we really aren’t sure what to legitimately expect. If we look at things optimistically, we would be reliving 2008 over again. If we look at things negatively, we could be coach less halfway through the season and struggling to stay off the bottom of the table. As with all things, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

Beckerman%20Frey%20GettyIf you could pick 3 players from any MLS side, who would you like to see wearing the Black and Gold and why ?

We really like this question. On overall skill we would have to say Chris Wondolowski (guy seems to have an incredible knack to find the back of the net in the MLS over the last few seasons), Kyle Beckerman (holds down the midfield and keeps a team together from front to back) and either LA Galaxy players Juninho or Omar Gonzalez (two up-and-coming players who we think will be stars).

In a five year period, where do you see Columbus Crew ?

This year is a bit of a deciding factor for this question. Either this season will bring about a change for the better that will bring about years to build upon toward another championship, or this year will bring about the official rebuilding/dismantling of the team. (This is a bit of a joke with Crew fans due to all of the turnover we’ve had from season to season and the FO claims that we aren’t in a rebuilding mode each year.) It has the potential to really go either way. The Crew should always be battling for a playoff spot, and due to the Columbus market not being that of New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, we likely will always be a step behind on paper due to the level of designated players that those teams will bring in compared to what we will likely bring in due to our smaller market stature and budget. Nonetheless, our expectations will not be different (nothing less than deep playoff runs and consistent good play throughout the regular season).

Where can the readers go to access more information on the YNA supporters group ?

Twitter: @YellowNatArmy

We have been covered by local publications Columbus Alive and 614 Magazine in recent years, as well done a couple of audio/radio interviews that can be found at the following links:

(PART 1)

ColumbusCrewFavourite Crew Game You’ve Watched

Awesomeness: 2008 MLS Cup Championship game

Juicer: 2008 Eastern Conference Finals verses Chicago

Favourite MLS Game You’ve Watched (Other Than Columbus)

Awesomeness: I love watching the great rivalry games (LA/Chivas, Portland/Seattle, etc).

Juicer: Any game where Chicago or DC loses… if they are playing each other then I root for a meteor to hit the stadium.

Favourite Ever Crew Player

Awesomeness: Frankie Hejduk, the heart and soul of our team for many years.

Juicer: I concur, Frankie was a beast of a player and a man of the people.

Favourite Opposition Player

Awesomeness: One of the few opposing MLS players I root on is a former Crew player in Steven Lenhart (now with San Jose). He was another guy with a lot of heart and soul and who brought a lot of intensity each minute he was on the field.

Juicer: The one that lets in the most goals when they play the Crew.

New England Revolution v Columbus CrewFavourite MLS Stadium (Other Than Crew Stadium)

Awesomeness: Philadelphia and Kansas City.

Juicer: From first-hand experience I can say that the Red Bulls stadium is pretty nice but its in the middle of nowhere in Jersey… surprised that the surrounding area didn’t develop with bars and restaurants.

Favourite Crew Chant

Awesomeness: The aforementioned “C’mon Crew Let’s Score a Goal…” and the “We Love ya, we love ya, we love ya, and where you go we’ll follow, we’ll follow, we’ll follow, ’cause we support Columbus, Columbus, Columbus, and that’s the way we like it, we like it, we like it” chants.

Juicer: “Sh*t on those Bastards Below”, “Can’t Help Falling in Love with Crew” (Righteous Brothers cover), and “Somebody Stole My Sombrero”.

Favourite Pre Game Destination

Awesomeness: The Crew Stadium parking lot tailgates. A lot of great people to hang out with.

Juicer: I concur, the tailgate is my ‘pub’ of choice prior to matches.

Favourite Pre Game Food

Awesomeness: It’s a bit hard to eat without making the yellow suits a mess, so anything that allows me to grab a bite without makes me look like I’m a baby that’s just learned how to eat on his own is good.

Juicer: Anything with bacon on it or in it…. mmmmmmmmmm, bacon.

Favourite Pre Game Drink

Awesomeness: Slut Puppies!

Juicer: Yes, it has to be Slut Puppies. Whats that saying… necessity is the mother of invention. Well that’s how the Slut Puppy came to be. It was a creation born out of a drunken night and the desired to keep the party going with a limited stock in the liquor cabinet. Here’s the recipe so that you can make your own. I will warn you that it is often imitated but never duplicated. You must attend a Crew YNA tailgate to get the real McCoy.


Slut Puppy:

On ice in a rocks glass combine 1 shot vodka, 1 shot gin, and 1/2 cup of orange juice. Top with Mountain Dew Code Red (yeah I said Mountain Dew in a mixed drink… ‘MERICA!!!) and enjoy.

2008+MLS+Cup+0-wsamrUJBAlALL TIME CREW 11

Awesomeness: Brian McBride (ST), Jeff Cunningham or Edson Buddle (ST), Guillermo Barros Schelotto (CAM), Robert Warzycha (MF), Todd Yeagley (MF), Brian Maisonneuve (CDM), Frankie Hejduk (RB), Chad Marshall (CB), Mike Lapper (CB), Gino Padula (LB), Will Hesmer (GK). Give Higuain another year and he might take the 2nd striker spot aside McBride…

Juicer: Brian McBride (ST), Jeff Cunningham (ST), Alejandro Moreno (ST), GBS (CAM), Eddie Gaven (MF), Carroll (MF), Frankie Hejduk (RB), Chad Marshall (CB), Duncan Oughten (CB), Gino Padula (LB), Brad Friedel (GK)…. I prefer attacking soccer so I like the extra forward out there.

lllllI would like to thank both Major Awareness and General Juicer for their time and efforts during the interview process.