If there is a "home" for the United States, it is Columbus Crew Stadium. It was the first soccer-specific stadium in the U.S. and ushered in a new era of American soccer. It was the site of the Yanks' memorable 2-0 win over Mexico in 2001, dubbed "La Guerra Fria" by the Mexican media, which helped usher in a decade of American dominance in the United States/Mexico rivalry. Four years later, the U.S. beat Mexico 2-0 in Columbus again and "dos a cero" was forever ingrained in American soccer lore.
When qualifying for the 2010 World Cup came around and the draw called for the U.S. to host Mexico in February, Crew Stadium was the obvious host for the match. It would be La Guerra Fria II and the Americans would take their bitter ivals back to a site of so many Mexican nightmares.
In the days leading up to the match, the forecast wasn't promising. Mother Nature had the gall to make central Ohio unseasonably warm. So much for a midwest freeze giving the Americans an extra home-field advantage.
But the weather came through on matchday. Seemingly out of nowhere, Columbus found itself of a storm that made temperatures dip, kicked up the winds and brought lightning and hail to Crew Stadium. The Americans had their weather.
When the match kicked off, it was clear that the U.S. had the crowd too. There was plenty of green in the stands too, but the elusive pro-American crowd had showed up in Columbus once again.
The match started out frantic and Tim Howard had to make a few key saves to keep the U.S. level, but eventually it settled down. Both teams were conservative and a scoreless draw at halftime seemed inevitable.
But just before halftime, Frankie Hejduk* drew a corner kick. The ball was floated into the back post before being nodded back in front. There Oguchi Onyewu was waiting to head the ball for what seemed like a sure goal, but Oswaldo Sanchez made a great save. Michael Bradley was on the spot, though, and the midfielder blasted the rebound home, igniting Crew Stadium as the U.S. took a 1-0 lead.
The second half was level and neither team showed any sort of ingenuity. They couldn't break down their opponent, which was fine for the U.S.,
* This is your friendly reminder that Frankie Hejduk was starting in a World Cup qualifier just three years ago, and against Mexico to boot.
The second half was level and neither team showed any sort of ingenuity. The teams were devoid of ideas, which was just fine for the U.S. They defended well, got a few quality saves from Howard and then got to play up a man when Rafa Marquez did what Rafa Marquez does and was sent off for a cheap shot on Howard. The Americans were on their way to three points.
Just getting three points wasn't going to be enough, though. There was a tradition to keep alive.
In stoppage time, the U.S. counterattacked and found space in the middle of the field. Landon Donovan fed Bradey, who stepped into the gaping hole in the center and ripped a shot from 25 yards that skipped under Sanchez. The U.S. were 2-0 winners and "dos a cero" chants filled the stadium.
Now the U.S. returns to Crew Stadium for the first time since then. A sold out crowd of 24,000 is expected and with it also being September 11, there will be a buzz in the stadium that will take the match to another level.
The U.S. will have a real home-field advantage, which isn't rare. They will be at Crew Stadium for a gigantic match, which also isn't arare. And if this one goes the same way as the Americans' past trips to Columbus for big matches, they will come away with three points, probably with a 2-0 win. Such is Crew Stadium tradition, even if it isn't Mexico.