May 3, 2012, 11:46 AM EDT
I love U.S. Soccer’s venue choice for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Jamaica.
U.S. Socccer announced yesterday that the September qualifier against Jamaica will play out at Crew Stadium, what I’ve called previously the “meat and potatoes” of U.S. soccer grounds.
No ornamentation. No fancy-schmancy. Just four sets of nuts-and-bolts stands around a good field. Perfect! It’s a place that embodies the simple, no-frills, lunch pail approach that once marked the U.S. program.
Plus, what Crew Stadium does offer is history – something still is relatively short supply in matters of domestic soccer.
Consider the following:
- The United States is 5-0-3 there. That’s the kind of history that players can lean on. As in: “We don’t lose when we play in Columbus.”
- Crew Stadium is the historic site of two landmark U.S. qualifying triumphs. Remember the so-called Guerra Fria (Cold War)? That was the Mexican media’s moniker on February 2001 triumph on a bitterly cold Ohio night. (I could barely type my story, no kidding at all.) That 2-0 win over El Tri provided a brilliant launching pad for the final drive toward World Cup 2002.
- Conditions were less polar bear friendly four years later on a brilliant fall day of 2005, when goals at Crew Stadium by Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley helped the United States officially clinch its berth for World Cup 2006.
- Jamaica, typically stocked with talented players, qualified for the 1998 World Cup. So the Raggae Boyz probably represent the most substantial U.S. obstacle in the semifinal round. This one needed to be picked wisely, based on performance factors rather than economic ones. (Larger venues = better profit, so money was perhaps left on the table here, and prudently so.)
- The match falls on Sept. 11. What better place to recognize national history, sad and notorious as the date is, than playing near the heartland, at a site with a growing legacy of U.S. Soccer history?
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