While Nashville SC may have earned a draw in its home opener on Sunday at Geodis Park, there’s no question the day was a win for the club.

Opening the largest soccer-specific stadium in the country — a project that was three years in the making — NSC upheld the city’s reputation of setting the bar high when featured on a big stage.

Randall Leal brought 30,109 fans to their feet in the 85th minute — none louder than those in the supporter’s section directly behind the goal that had a literal front-row seat as Leal’s penalty kick soared past the outstretched hands of lunging Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake to tie the match 1-1.

The goal resulted in a cathartic eruption that signified a feeling of liberation after years of temporary displacement while playing at venues such as First Horizon Park and Nissan Stadium.

“The atmosphere was terrific,” NSC coach Gary Smith said. “I’ve got to say, having been in some very good environments, that was as good as anywhere I’ve been. There was a real terrific feel about it. And I know it’s new. I know there’s going to be that initial sort of feel around the place of trying to make it a home rather than just a venue. But couldn’t have wished for any more [from the fans].”


If there were a game where the results didn’t matter nearly as much as the moment of the game itself, Sunday was it. 

Smith and the players shared their disappointment in not breaking the stadium in with a three-point bang, however, it wasn’t lost on them the latest in their long line of history-making accomplishments that started with 59,069 fans on Feb. 29, 2020, at Nissan Stadium.

“There is no history here for us,” Smith stated. “We put together a terrific run of games over at [Nissan Stadium]; that doesn’t represent anything for us now given that it’s a completely different venue. I think my biggest fear was that the occasion might just engulf the players, they wouldn’t be able to express themselves.

“… I think we always knew as well that the fans would give us that extra boost, and when you see just what it was like out there, I think there’s a fabulous opportunity, given the atmosphere, to try and harness that. We’ve taken that very first step in this arena, and hopefully towards just as successful a period as we had at times.”

While Nashville’s record was impeccable at Nissan Stadium (12 wins, 14 draws, 2 losses in 28 matches), Smith admitted those matches never really had that true soccer atmosphere.

But Geodis Park does.

“To have our own home is vitally important,” Smith said. “As much as we were well-cared-for and supported [at Nissan Stadium], there is no beating your home stadium."

Nashville SC had a good run at the 69,000-plus-seat Nissan Stadium, ranking seventh in MLS in average attendance last season (19,172).

But the 30,109 fans that packed Geodis Park on Sunday was a taste of what Geodis Park can be — a true home-field advantage. NSC's new permanent home did exactly what defender Walker Zimmerman said it would during the club’s first practice at the venue: put Nashville on the soccer map.

“The crowd was magnificent,” Smith remarked. “I think the guys realized from the very first moment they walked out to the warmups today, you know, it was going to be a wonderful recognition of the guys being back at home in this new stadium.

“Just incredible, enveloping noise when things went well, which is different, you know, we’ve all experienced [Nissan Stadium], and you lose that cheer and that roar and the expanse of that stadium. In terms of how we were able to adapt, I thought we did a fabulous job.”

Added midfielder Alex Muyl: “You know [the atmosphere is] good when I’m yelling at Randall [Leal] and he’s 15 feet away and he can’t hear me.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_