Lower.com Field represents the third and final MLS stadium debuting in 2021. For the first time ever, it was on display Saturday in Columbus, and it was a certifiable hit among the Columbus Crew players and staff.
The hometown Black and Gold found themselves staring at an early 2-0 deficit against the New England Revolution, but fought back to settle at 2-2 and ensure their banner day was not spoiled with a loss.
“First of all – I’m talking about the environment and the crowd – our supporters (section) in Nordecke, absolutely electric,” coach Caleb Porter said after the game. “It’s really exciting to know that this is going to be our home every single game that we play.
“To know that that atmosphere is going to be exactly like what we all envisioned it would be, dreamt it would be. It exceeded all expectations. We never knew it would be big, we knew it would be loud, but it was absolutely critical. And that helped us come back from two goals,”
The sell-out crowd of 20,011 looked to be in for a long day when the Crew allowed two easy goals in the first 30 minutes, but they were unquestionably the better side on Saturday and were unlucky to have not landed a couple of goals within the same half-hour.
For the history buffs, Revs winger Tajon Buchanan will go down in history as the first-ever goal scorer on Columbus’ new ground. But the raucous crowd did not break character, and their fortunes changed just before halftime when Gyasi Zardes started the comeback.
And the Crew took advantage of playing towards their supporter section in the second frame.
“I think anytime you have supporters behind a goal … actually, statistics show, you score more goals at that end,” said Porter.
It played a part, because the equalizer was a case of New England dropping the anvil on itself with an own-goal. Defender Andrew Farrell had his back turned when a Columbus ball hit him in the head and goalkeeper Matt Turner was off his line. From there it was a race between them, the ball, and Zardes. The ball won.
😱 OMG 😱
Own goal off the defender's head to tie it in Columbus. pic.twitter.com/pcMVkQTrie
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 3, 2021
“I think the fans leave entertained. You know, we get four goals out of the game. It was an exciting game. So I think in the end, people are going to want to come back for sure – and we’re going to want to make sure we get three points the next time.” Porter said.
Beyond the game day experience, the effects of the Crew’s upgraded facilities were felt in the run-up to day one.
“I was actually talking to a couple of my teammates about it. You know, we actually feel like professional soccer players playing in this environment,” Zardes said. “This organization within the last two weeks, actually, let’s say in the last month … new training facility, state of the art. New stadium, which is more than state of the art … For this organization, it’s only going to keep moving in the right direction, and everybody can see it. Especially in the heart of the city. And to be able to play here; there’s no place like it, so I’m happy.”
After Saturday’s draw, the Crew are winless in their last three games and sit ninth in the Eastern Conference where the playoff picture is logjammed. Next up, a trip to FC Cincinnati on July 9 for the first Hell is Real derby of the season.