When the Columbus Crew step onto the field for the first time at Lower.com Field on Saturday night, the moment will usher in a new era for Black & Gold soccer for decades to come.
But beyond the spectacle that comes along with playing in a soccer cathedral, eventually, the “newness” feelings will give way to an on-field question: How will the new stadium play into the Club's noted success in home matches?
The final match at Historic Crew Stadium was both symbolic and sentimental for everyone, as the Club extinguished Chicago Fire FC, 2-0. The convincing victory was the result we hoped for, but it also solidified the nation’s first soccer-specific stadium as a difficult venue for opponents.
Through six games across all competitions this season, the Black & Gold have registered four wins and two draws. During league play, the winning percentage jumps to 75 percent (three wins) so far at home.
Add that to the 2020 results, and the Columbus Crew lead MLS in most home wins over the last two seasons with 14. The next closest club, Seattle Sounders FC, has 11, while the Philadelphia Union have 10.
For context, the league average is only 5.61 home wins through almost 15 months of soccer.
The Crew’s level of dominance at Historic Crew Stadium was undoubtedly a factor in the Club’s campaign for a second MLS Cup, a trophy that was lifted inside the stadium last December.
But now as Columbus moves into a new home, it’ll be intriguing to see how Lower.com Field can even better the Crew's successful home track record.
In keeping with the same timeframe (2020 and 2021), the Black & Gold leave Historic Crew Stadium as the MLS club with the second-most goals at home with 29, only trailing Seattle.
Additionally, the Crew only trailed the Sounders (23-18) for most home goals scored in the second half, a testament to the supporters urging Columbus to either build upon its lead, or score late goals that determine the difference between one or three points.
The point: Yes, Lower.com Field will be new for the Crew, but don’t forget it’ll also be new for every opponent the club hosts during the remainder of 2021.
In a month filled with emotions – from the last game at Historic Crew Stadium, to playing Austin, then to opening the new venue and next week’s Hell Is Real Derby – how the Crew can jumpstart their home-field advantage now could be the difference in how much opponents fear playing in the venue moving forward.
It’s unquestionable that Lower.com Field will be louder on matchdays, with a roof that will cage in the noise emitted from the Nordecke in the league’s largest designated supporters’ section. But will the Black & Gold respond to the noise with the same success rate they had at their first soccer-specific stadium?
We’ll have a better idea after the final whistle on Saturday night.