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There’s something special about the U.S. and Mexico playing in Columbus

This game could be played anywhere around the country, but it belongs in Columbus, Ohio

USA v Mexico Wolff

For a long time, the U.S.-Mexico series was one-sided. Mexico had the advantage not only on the field, but in the stands.

When the Americans would head south of the border, they would be greeted by 87,000 Mexican fans who presented more than an intimidating atmosphere. When the Red, White & Blue would play at home, the Mexicans would sellout whatever venue the game was held in. The U.S. just couldn’t win.

That was until a cold night in late February of 2001 when the game was held in the country’s first professional soccer specific stadium in Columbus, Ohio. On that night, not only did the Americans defeat El Tri, and Dos a Cero was born, but the U.S. had a home field advantage.

“We’ve finally got that kind of in our back pocket, a place that we feel comfortable and we feel at home,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said.

“It’s great. We love coming to Columbus and another game, knowing our history here, gives us certainly a psychological boost.”

When the Stars & Stripes take the field against Mexico Friday night at MAPFRE Stadium, it will have been five straight 2-0 results over El Tri in Columbus. Five straight sold out, crazy crowds that most importantly are cheering for the Red, White & Blue.

“We always look forward and get excited about coming back here,” U.S. midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. “We have a certain confidence about us when we play against Mexico here. So I’m very excited.”

For many that came before, they remember the times when Mexico dominated this rivalry on and off the field, but for these players, this game has been two-sided and it has been in Columbus.

“Obviously playing here in Columbus there’s an ora, a mystique, and you have a group of guys who at this point grew up with this game,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said. “I can remember sitting on my couch in 2001 and watching Josh Wolff score and he was playing for my dad at the time in Chicago and I can remember being so excited that he was playing and he got on the field and made a difference.”

With the evolution of soccer in this country and the popularity growth of the sport, many markets would love to have this game. U.S. Soccer could put it in Seattle and draw a much bigger crowd or in Kansas City and get a similar American fanbase. The federation has tried cities like Los Angeles or Dallas, but when it comes to the Hexagonal, the last stage of World Cup qualifiers, U.S. Soccer turns to Columbus and Columbus delivers.

“It’s just all one big blur,” Howard said of these U.S.-Mexico games in Columbus. “I always remember the sound of the metal bleachers, which a lot of stadiums don’t have. So that’s kind of special and unique to Columbus and I have no doubt they’ll be banged on again this weekend.”

It helps Columbus’ case that the national team keeps winning at MAPFRE Stadium. Dos a Cero has become synonymous with the rivalry, but that’s because it keeps happen and it occurs in Columbus.

“Strange right,” Howard said when asked about the score line. “It means nothing. If we win 1-0 we’ll be just as excited. But there’s just something about. It seems to keep creeping up.”

While there will likely come a time when 2-0 to the U.S. is not the final score at MAPFRE Stadium, or the result may not go the American’s way. If that day comes, there will be plenty of talk of where to play this massive rivalry next World Cup Qualifying, but I think we know the answer.

“It should always be here,” Howard said. “This is where it belongs; this is U.S.-Mexico.”

Well said, Tim. Well said.