Ludwig Field became the home for Maryland soccer in 1995. From 1995 through 2002, the Terrapins compiled an impressive home record of 67-24-4. Since 2003, Maryland's home record - including NCAA appearances at Ludwig - is an astonishing 113-13-10. What happened in 2003 that accelerated Maryland's home dominance, you wonder. That's the year Mike Mastrantuono and a small group of his friends became the seeds of a group that now numbers nearly 2,000 strong: The Crew.
"Stro", as he's called, went with a few of his friends to the first home soccer game played in his freshman year at Maryland. By coincidence, the game happened to be a rematch of the previous year's College Cup semi final. When he saw the configuration of the stands at Ludwig, an idea quickly took shape. He and his small group sat behind the UCLA goalkeeper and began heckling him before the game. The Terps 1-0 victory that night provided unnecessary but additional encouragement to return. And return they did growing in number with each successive outing until their presence was noted and comment on by Maryland's head coach Sasho Cirovski.
Current president Dylan French, a junior economics major, started his association with The Crew his first day on campus. "I didn't know about The Crew before I came out here but I was always a big soccer fan and a couple of my friends said C'mon out to the soccer game. We're really good.' and I've been in love with it ever since."
The Crew doesn't have many rules. They do keep their taunts family friendly - with nothing stronger than "You suck, (insert goalie's first name here)" while still managing to create the toughest environment in college soccer for opposing teams. And once or twice a season they take their show on the road heading out for a day of tailgating and taunts.
Rule number two is to focus their attention solely on men's soccer. "We've been asked to come by a lot of other groups," French said, "but that would spread us too thin and we want to remain true to the brand."
One other rule The Crew seems to have is the good time rule. They're an ad hoc association of soccer fans who like to unwind and have a good time especially for those Friday night games. "Kids come out of their last class on Friday and the just want to have a good time," French told me. And any Maryland fan is welcome. "We try to include everybody. We try to spread the word as much as we can and have as many people come out and hang out with us and have a great time." And the ever growing crowd as I stood in the parking lot talking with French more than three hours before Maryland's home opener against Duke was a testament to that.
But this is not the only thing that has contributed to The Crew's growth. The enthusiasm of the coaches and players also provides inspiration. "The team and Sasho have really embraced us and because of that we really feel like we're a part of something," French told me with an understandable hint of pride in his voice.
Those among you who have attended a game at Ludwig know The Crew coordinates their cheers that often have a call and response from one end of the stadium to the other. Many of the cheers and taunts are carried on by tradition - for example the countdown from 2:15 to 2:10 in each half - hearkens back to the early days of The Crew and to a goalie Maryland used to face who weighed, you guessed it, 210 pounds.
And how did The Crew become The Crew? Well, early on, Mike and his small group were interviewed by The Diamondback and the reporter asked what they called themselves. Though they had no name, one voice popped up and said, "We're the Terpetrators." But Mastrantuono broke in and explained, "When I do my introductions, I say, ‘My name's Stro and this is my crew.'" And thus are legends born.
If you're interested in experiencing a game with The Crew, you can look for the tailgate going on before any game in Lot 1 adjacent to Ludwig Field where French assures me you will be welcome. Or you can look for the rowdy group behind the visiting team's goalie for any Maryland men's soccer home game.