COLLEGE PARK – Wake Forest goalie Michael Lisch stood ready to clear the ball when the lyrical chant built in the Maryland stands: “Wooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah…You suck Michael!”
For 90 minutes of each University of Maryland men’s soccer game, a rowdy group of dedicated fans known as “The Crew” uses clever, not-so-clever and often bawdy cheers to get in the heads of opposing players.
They’ve brought to Ludwig Field – Maryland’s home soccer ground – the flair of die-hard fandom generally associated with European football clubs, where supporters sing complexly orchestrated songs for teams like England’s Manchester United.
“What really blows me away about European fans is their ability to sing for a full 90 minutes,” Crew president Adam Lauer said. “Since we are much smaller in size, our goal is to do at least half of that.”
The Crew launched in 2003 when Maryland alum Mike Mastrantuono and a few friends realized they could put opposing players off their game with well-timed chants.
“They were sitting behind the goal and just started to spontaneously heckle the goalie,” Lauer said. “Eventually, the goalie really started to get into it – spraying water at them, yelling back at them, and even flicking them off.”
Encouraged by the goalie’s frustration, Mastrantuono and his friends returned to the same seats for the next home game with a larger group of students. Their objective: to distract the opposing goalie as much as possible.
Since then, The Crew has grown from about 40 students to become a major presence at Terrapin soccer games, drawing up to 2,000 fans at certain matches, Lauer said.
“The best part about Ludwig Field is the fans,” Maryland senior midfielder Kaoru Forbess said. “The Crew is always right in your face. I know as a senior I am going to miss that the most.”
The Crew has a rotation of about 24 chants that it mixes with the standard cheers often heard at other Terrapin sporting events.
“My favorite chant is probably a variation of ‘U-G-L-Y you ain’t got no alibi’ that we did for the West Virginia game,” said Lauer. “We changed the words to say C-O-U…S-I-N, who is that girl your marrying… your cousin.”
The University of Maryland’s Ludwig Field is one of the few collegiate soccer stadiums with stands directly behind the goal.
Members of the Crew begin each game sitting directly behind the opposing team’s goaltender to make sure he can hear them. As the teams switch sides at half time, Crew members follow the opposing goaltender to the opposite side of the field.
Crew members also work with the team to organize road trips to the Terrapins’ away games.
“We want to try to give our team the home field advantage even when they are on the road,” Lauer said.
To ensure that their behavior is not a distraction to the team, “The Crew” periodically seeks feedback from players, coaches and administrators.
Last season, members sang the national anthem too loudly, drowning out the on-field performer. Athletics department officials asked them to sing more quietly.
They were also asked to stop chanting “half time beers!” during the break between play.
“We want to make sure we don’t go overboard and that everything we do is OK at Ludwig,” Lauer said.
“The Crew is incredible,” said Maryland senior forward Casey Townsend. “They always come out to support us and we can’t thank them enough.”
Maryland was eliminated from the NCAA tournament Sunday when they lost to Louisville 4-2.