COLUMBUS – The first-ever American soccer-specific stadium has officially been closed for business and it was sent off in glory one last time on Saturday night.
However emotional the farewell to the old Crew Stadium may have been, it offered Columbus Crew fans a reprieve from the more consequential feelings they have felt between watching the team get saved from relocation, winning the 2020 MLS Cup, securing an upgraded stadium, and fending off a tone-deaf rebrand attempt all in the last three years.
On Saturday, any lingering frustrations were pushed to the side on a picturesque day in the Ohio capital where the Black and Gold made quick work of their oldest rival.
Fans were able to live in the moment and take in their historic home one last time. The Crew delivered on the field, and striker Gyasi Zardes’ brace led the charge in the team’s 2-0 victory over the Chicago Fire.
“Just to be able to play a game on the first soccer specific stadium here in our country meant the world,” Zardes said after Saturday’s win. “Especially just to have a packed house, I don’t remember the last time it was that packed. So, it was great to play in front of all the fans and family members.”
The Crew were able to welcome a full-capacity crowd back for the first time since returning to action from the COVID-19 shutdown, perfect timing for a worthy sendoff for the historic venue.
The 20,064 fans in attendance roared their signature chants in unison all night, and belted out a “Dos a Cero” chant as the team closed out the game, a nod to scoreline that became synonymous with the stadium after the U.S. Men’s National Team defeated Mexico by the same scoreline in World Cup qualifiers held there in 2002, 2005, 2009 and 2013.
“I think it’s fitting, the Dos a Cero. I told the guys at halftime, let’s just shut it down and go 2-0,” head coach Caleb Porter joked. “I wish that was the case, but anyways I think it’s probably fitting to get to the 2-0 result.”
It marked the third win in a row for the defending MLS Cup champions, but it will stand alone in the long view of the 2021 campaign. The night was built to celebrate and honor the team’s 27-year history, but morally, it did have to end in a win at the end of the day.
“You know, imagine fireworks if we had a loss. It wouldn’t have been nice. So, three wins in a row, that’s great. The performance was good, that’s great. This was one … It’s bigger than those things,” Porter said. “It’s a big win for the club to cement this fitting and perfect ending to what’s been a very special stadium in this club’s fabric and history.”
Club legends Dante Washington and Frankie Hejduk were on hand and made appearances in the post-game celebration as well.
“The players were well aware how important this game was to the club,” Porter said. “To the supporters, the history of the club, the former players who paved the way, the pioneers.”
Though the stadium is done hosting MLS games, the grounds will stay in use. Columbus recently built its new training facility on-site and will be replacing the grass with turf, and placing a bubble over it for winter training sessions.