Daily Distraction: Get ready for the Columbus homecoming of the U.S. Men's National Team

Building on a string of celebrated World Cup qualifiers in Columbus, Crew forward Gyasi Zardes, former Crew coach Gregg Berhalter and the USMNT make their Lower.com Field debut against Costa Rica

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Gyasi Zardes acknowledges fans after the USMNT's victory over Qatar in a Concacaf Gold Cup semifinal at Q2 Stadium.

"When one thinks of the spiritual home for the U.S. men's national team, it's hard to argue against Columbus, Ohio," writes ESPN's Jeff Carlisle in a story posted yesterday titled "How did Columbus become the USMNT's spiritual home, and will it continue to be?"

The article comes in advance of tonight's World Cup qualifier match against Costa Rica, which marks the first time the men's national team has taken the pitch at the Crew's new digs, Lower.com Field. 

As Carlisle explains, Columbus has hosted 12 USMNT matches, and 10 of those were World Cup qualifiers. The team beat their Mexico rivals five times in Columbus, which helped to coin the phrase "Dos a Cero," referring to a frequent scoreline of 2-0 in the USMNT's favor. 

"Will the city remain in the USSF's World Cup qualification rotation? History counts obviously, but with more options, there is a sense that the city will have to prove itself again," Carlisle writes. "Wednesday's match against Costa Rica certainly counts as a test run."

There are plenty of Columbus connections in tonight's match, including USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter, who led the Crew from 2013 to 2018, and USMNT forward Gyasi Zardes, the Crew's starting striker. (Zardes may or may not get the start over young phenom Ricardo Pepi.) Plus, the Costa Rica team features Crew winger Luis Diaz, who, for the first time, will be on the opposite bench from Zardes at Lower.com Field.

Cuban-American artist ABSTRK created the poster for the World Cup qualifier in Columbus, and fans at the match will be able to download an NFT of the art via a QR code in their seat's cup holder. "The arch that frames the entire piece was inspired by the facade of iconic Ohio Stadium in Columbus," ABSTRK said. "I included a white rose that represents oneness, inspired by a poem from Jose Marti that states he nurtures a white rose for his true friend and his competitors the same. A labor of love, this represents the camaraderie and respect the teams hold for each other as competitors.”

The USMNT is coming off a tough, unexpected 1-0 road loss to Panama, so a World Cup qualifier is needed tonight not just for the three points, but for morale and momentum. If you're heading to the match, I'll see you there. Pre-game festivities begin outside Lower.com at 3:30 p.m., and the gates open at 5 p.m. If you're watching from home, TV coverage starts at 6:30 p.m., with kickoff at 7 p.m., on ESPN2, ESPN+, UniMás and TUDN.