Wednesday night proved to be a hard lesson for Columbus Crew SC. The Black & Gold were on the wrong side of a 1-0 result in the inaugural “Hell is Real” derby in front of more than 30,000 people.
It’s a quick turnaround for Crew SC who travel to take on Atlanta United at Bobby Dodd Stadium where the crowds are much larger than what FC Cincinnati had to offer.
The United fans are quite possibly the biggest crowd that Crew SC may face all season in MLS competition, with Atlanta averaging more than 47,000 fans per game. Because of this, the Columbus players will review what they learned from their trip to Cincinnati and move forward to Saturday.
For central defender Josh Williams Wednesday night was a good learning experience.
“This is a good test,” he said following the defeat. “We’ve been in situations like this, in sellouts and things like that. It will be similar to this in Atlanta, so yeah it was good preparation for this weekend.”
Atlanta United have yet to open up their multi-purpose Mercedes Benz Stadium, so right now they are setting up shop on the campus of Georgia Tech. United are playing at Bobby Dodd, which can hold up to 55,000 fans for soccer matches.
Columbus got a preview of what a larger crowd could sound like on Wednesday evening when the team faced what was the biggest crowd of the Modern Era for a non-final in the US Open Cup at Nipper Stadium.
“It’s perfect preparation,” captain Wil Trapp said of the FCC crowd. “Atlanta’s another difficult place to play. They feed off their crowd, so if they score, you know that there’s going to be a lot of noise in the stadium. I think for us, it’s a good warm-up match for that.””
Trapp echoed a lot of the same sentiments as his head coach, Gregg Berhalter, who was equally as impressed with the atmosphere that Cincinnati provided.
“This is what makes soccer special and it’s great to give Americans a taste of that,” he said. “A real cup atmosphere, that’s exactly what this was.”
Berhalter was also very enthusiastic about the atmosphere that Columbus and Cincinnati supporters provided in this fixture.
“Our fans were amazing, their fans were amazing and it made an atmosphere that was electric,” he continued. “And I think for the spectator, that's what you want to see.”
The Black & Gold likely won’t be able to enjoy traveling support like the team saw on Wednesday, but that’s normal for MLS matches. The attention must shift from a difficult loss to getting three points on the road Saturday, something Crew SC has done just twice this year.
That is exactly the plan.
“We’ve got veteran guys in here, Williams said. “This one stings tonight. On the way back, we’ve got a lot of thinking to do. But as soon as we get back home, we’ve got to gear up for the weekend.
This is just another one of those tests. You go through ups and downs in a year. This was a big game for us and to come out and have that type of ending to a game is rough. But like I said, we’ve got a lot of veteran guys and it’s about bouncing back.”