The Crew's rise to first place in the Eastern Conference has been somewhat like a tree's fall in the forest. If no one witnesses it, did it really happen?

The Crew's rise to first place in the Eastern Conference has been somewhat like a tree's fall in the forest. If no one witnesses it, did it really happen?

There have been, of course, a few eyeballs on the professional soccer team from Columbus. The Nordecke isn't surging like it did in 2008, but supporters clubs are still an audible and visible presence in Crew Stadium. The rest of the stadium remains checkered with diehards.

But Columbus averaged a mere 10,846 per game through the season's first 10 matches, a figure that belies the success the "not rebuilding" Crew is having this season. They may be first in the East, but they're last in attendance - and down 22.7 percent from last year's numbers - in a season when nationwide interest in MLS is on the rise.

SportsBusiness Journal reports that overall MLS attendance over each team's first 10 home matches averages to 17,526, an increase of 6.3 percent from last year.

Some of the Crew's woes can be attributed to poor turnout during an exceptionally rainy spring. Fans have complained about the absence of familiar faces since the Crew replaced almost half its roster this season, parting ways with beloved stars including Frankie Hejduk and Guillermo Barros Schelotto. And one letter to the Dispatch suggested the Crew lost ticket-selling allies in the youth soccer market when the club started its own youth teams.

There's also the economy to consider; people with tight budgets can't be fond of seeing minimum box office prices almost double (from $16 to $27) since the 2008 MLS Cup-winning season. Fans can get $20 tickets through the supporters clubs.

Whatever the reason for the downturn, it didn't show signs of improving when 11,246 showed up Saturday to see the Crew topple the Portland Timbers and move into a first-place tie with Philadelphia.

It's not just that people in Columbus aren't paying attention. The rest of MLS is sleeping on the Crew too, as evidenced by the absence of a single Crew player on the 32-man MLS All-Star roster. Fans, players, coaches and MLS Commissioner Don Garber all had a chance to pick somebody from Columbus. Nobody did.

It seems they, like the people of Columbus, aren't all that impressed with winning.