Fans' View

Fan’s view: A trip to Nashville

Photo: Stephen Speer

The last time my father and I traveled to an away Philadelphia Union game, the MLS Cup final against LAFC, we returned so heartbroken that I was not able to write a post about it. More so, it is the only game in the last five years that I cannot bring myself to watch the highlights of.

Heading in to last week’s matchup against Nashville SC, I feared that the result would be the same.

On Tuesday, July 11, my dad and I took the quick flight down to Nashville, Tennessee. My dad and I travel at least one away game a year and figured what’s better than going to a brand-new stadium in a city that neither of us has been to. Better yet, I was excited to explore the Johnny Cash Museum and a local plantation – both topics I covered in-depth in my eleventh-grade classes this year. At the same time, we were both very excited to cheer on our Boys in Blue at Nashville’s Geodis Park, the largest soccer-specific stadium in the United States that holds close to 30,000 people.

We had high hopes for Geodis Park compared to the previous stadiums my dad and I have visited. I was expecting it to be modern like LAFC’s Banc of California (now BMO Field), which we also experienced during the heartbreaking MLS Cup final trip.

As we arrived at the Philadelphia airport, I made sure to check for other Union fans. I remember what fun it was to fly to LA surrounded by scores of Union supporters. This time, I was a little disappointed that only a couple of Union fans were on our flight to Nashville.

When we arrived in Nashville, my first experience was that it was very humid. I immediately had to take off my Union sweatshirt because of the heat. I wondered if this was a bad sign.

After we dropped our luggage off at the hotel, my dad and I went to explore downtown Nashville. While walking, we came across a very popular food court and walked down Broadway, which was loud and crowded. Then, I saw Nissan Stadium, Nashville’s old stadium before Geodis Park was built.

An unexpected win in an electric environment

Fast forward to gameday. My dad and I arrived two hours before kickoff in order to tour the outside of the stadium. After walking up the many stairs Nashville, we came to the venue. We walked for a little bit and got a free t-shirt. Then, we made our way to one of my favorite parts, the team store. I could not resist the urge to buy a bright yellow Hany Mukhtar gold home jersey for my collection. I now have fourteen out of the twenty-nine MLS teams jerseys, although some no longer fit. I hope to eventually collect a jersey from every MLS team. In addition to the jersey, I bought the matchday poster, something I wish the Union would do again.

Although it was Nashville’s Marvel superhero night, they barely had anything outside the stadium to mark the occasion. Because of the heat, we had to sit down and ended up seeing another Union fan, which was exciting. We talked for a while until the gates opened. The gate that we went through only had one line and limited security, something that surprised me. However, I was impressed by the ticket scanners that were very efficient.

Upon entering the stadium, I went down to the field to get some pictures. I liked how the seats were different colors, giving the illusion that the stadium was full even though it was nearly empty at that time. After that, I enjoyed a Nashville staple: Prince’s Hot Chicken.

The atmosphere was electric as the game started. I was surprised to see how small Nashville’s supporters’ section was and how Nashville chose to start the game trying to score where their supporters sit, whereas the Union does the opposite. Nashville also used the “SUCKS” chant just like the Union. Also, just like Philly fans, Nashville fans hated on the referee and caused some mayhem, even throwing a water bottle at a player. All in all, Nashville struck me as a nice stadium full of energized, mostly well-behaved fans. As always, I thought it was an experience to go behind enemy lines and support the team on the road.

I came into this game thinking that the Union were going to lose, but perhaps that was just recent history bringing me down. In the end, the team impressed me. Not only did we win, but Joe Bendik also got a clean sheet. It was amazing to see the other two hundred Union fans that also made the trip and to know that unlike last time, we were not going to go home deflated. In fact, we actually left with some momentum.

Best yet, I walked away thinking that although this stadium was nice, in the end, I prefer Subaru Park.

The only question that remains is where to travel to next?

7 Comments

  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    Cool article. Your line: “More so, it is the only game in the last five years that I cannot bring myself to watch the highlights of.”… got me.
    .
    so, I’m 42. I have a son a little older than you. I’m a lifelong Philly sports fan and Union STM since Day one. He and I were both in LA for the game. And I too still haven’t watched one highlight of MLS Cup. If/When the Union win one, I think that’ll give me the ok to go back and check it out. I get your pain.
    .
    My dad and I actually, not my son this time since he’ll be away at school, are traveling to the new stadium in Columbus to watch the Union/Crew in late September. I have never written anything for this site, but maybe I’ll put something together with my thoughts on that environment and game, when we’re back.

    • My 23-year-old son and I took a sports road trip last year, including the Pirates, the Cubs, minor league baseball in Columbus and centered around the Union playing in Chicago and Columbus.

      We loved Columbus.
      A number of great restaurants in the Short North district, especially Del Mar and Northstar Cafe.
      Lower.com stadium is a very enjoyable place to watch a game.
      Be sure to stop at Betty’s on your way to the stadium. Very friendly bar with outdoor patio filled with Crew fans. We showed up in our lightning blue away jerseys stood out like a fish out of water, but everybody was extremely friendly to us people were buying us drinks and kept commenting that they didn’t expect Philadelphia fans to be so friendly haha.

      And the Columbus Museum of Art is actually top notch for a mid-level museum.

      Enjoy your trip!

  2. Eric Boyle says:

    Making it to an away game each season is a fun goal. Nice write up. Last season we scheduled our summer vacation around the Union v FCC game at Cincy’s new stadium. I did contemplate going to LA with my son but ended up at the watch party on the field at home.

    While the game result was bad away against FCC last year, and I had to apologize to some locals after a drunk Union supporter was being obnoxious, the stadium was really great. It is right downtown and accessible from the free downtown trolley system. The concourse has plenty of room to move around and great food and beer options. Being from Cincy originally, I enjoyed the Skyline Chili dogs!

    It would be interesting to visit each stadium (soccer specific only!) in the league. My son is doing this with MLB stadiums, maybe I can convince him to switch it!

  3. We were in Columbus and Cincinnati last year and hit the Nashville game last week. In each place we got some strange looks but generally everyone was pleasant and wanted to tell us great places to visit.

  4. Attended the first ever game at Geodis Park when the Union drew 1-1 with Nashville. Uhre scored for the Union. The seats feel close to the pitch. When he was subbed, we shouted our thanks to Uhre and he waved back.

    The stadium is very nice, concessions and bathrooms plentiful. They had a system glitch with concessions on day one that I’m sure has been overcome. A bigger problem is access to the stadium. They built the stadium before the infrastructure was ready – sound familiar? Eventually, it will all catch up.

    I went with two friends. We had a great time. Nashville is a party seven days a week. Broadway is a must see and hear.

    Suggestion for next time: St Louis!

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