91013_crewstadium_isi_usmntjt090813144 John Todd/isiphotos.com
Dos a cero

The Columbus Advantage: A Home Field for America

The United States takes on Mexico tonight at Crew Stadium, hoping to beat their biggest rival here for the fourth time in World Cup qualifying. But will it be the last match in the stadium?
BY Noah Davis Posted
September 10, 2013
12:00 PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio—It is an unlikely fortress.

Fourteen years after it became the first soccer-specific venue in the United States, Crew Stadium is a relic of the past. It's in the middle of nowhere and aging rapidly, with none of the wonderful, revenue-generating amenities newer venues like Red Bull Arena and Sporting Park can claim.

But that connection to an earlier period in American soccer is exactly what makes the place special.

"We have history here. For soccer in our country, that's not always the case. Soccer is still in its growing stages. For us to feel like we walk into the stadium and there's history is a special feeling. The people here in Columbus, in this part of the United States love soccer. They love our team. They love supporting the United States," Michael Bradley said on Monday afternoon. "When we step out onto the field, there's an overwhelming feeling of American support. When you play against Mexico, when you play in these kinds of games where so much is on the line, that can help the bar swing our way."

Three times the Americans have played El Tri in Columbus and three times the U.S. has prevailed. On Tuesday evening they will look to make it four for four. A win along with a Honduras win or draw against Panama puts the United States through to Brazil. Avoid a loss and the Americans guarantee themselves a top-four finish in the Hexagonal.

On Tuesday, the U.S. went to Costa Rica and struggled to contend with the raucous crowd at Estadio Nacional. The players hope to reverse the table on their home soil.

"It's one of probably three or four venues in America where we have an advantage. The place gets rocking and it's hard to hear. The other night in Costa Rica was amazing. One of the most incredible atmospheres. I couldn't hear myself think, let alone my defenders. That's what we need to have. And this is one of the venues where we have it," Tim Howard said.

It could, however, be the last time the U.S. battles Mexico here. Other, bigger, more modern stadiums around at the country can offer the Americans a rabid home crowd and a bigger payday for the U.S. Soccer Federation. The Crew's new owner may look to build a new stadium to help the team compete in Major League Soccer. At the very least, the place will look different if the Stars and Stripes come here in four years for 2018 qualifying.

But that's all in the future. What matters now is tonight. And the fans have a role to play.

"Columbus is one of those venues where you have that 12th man. The crowd is all behind you. You have the 12th man, like I said. It just kind of adds to the excitement, gives you a little more wind in your sails, and it also puts pressure on the other team. They feel the excitement, they're not as confident, and they're a little tentative," captain Clint Dempsey said.

History has a way of repeating itself, even out here amidst the parking lots.

Noah Davis is ASN's deputy editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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