A group of Reno 1868 FC fans celebrate in the first half after an Azules goal. Greater Nevada Field was permitted to have 250 fans for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic after Governor Sisolak loosened the restrictions on public gatherings last week.
Saturday’s opening round playoff game not only saw Reno 1868 earn its first home playoff win in franchise history, the club also got to celebrate that win with 250 supporters in the seats and cheering them on.
For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Greater Nevada Field was allowed to host spectators for a live sporting event.
As soon as Governor Sisolak loosened the restrictions on public gatherings last week – increasing the maximum size from 50 to 250 people – Reno 1868 started trying to get its fans in the seats.
“It was a lot better hearing them in the stadium than outside the stadium in one little spot,” said Reno forward Corey Hertzog, who had two goals in the win Saturday night.
Since the football club resumed scheduled competition in Northern Nevada in early August, dedicated Azules supporters have gathered outside the gates on Kuenzli Street for home games rooting on their club from afar.
The south facing gates gave the dedicated fans a chance to look in around midfield, but it would have taken some neck work to see into the corners of Greater Nevada Field.
“The last time I was here was the end of February,” said Guy Moreno, a member of the Reno 1868 faithful called the Battle Born Brigade. “It meant a lot to be able to walk in, and enjoy what this is. To be able to sit here and root for this team after being gone for so long, … is a great privilege.”
Moreno and DJ Racis were once again in section 102 at Greater Nevada Field and pounding away on the drums, in attempt to help serve as added motivation of the 11 players on the field.
“We were told by the guys and the coaches they could hear us from there, but to be inside the stadium and get on our big drums and trumpets. Then we know we are making an effect,” said Racis. “Hopefully, … this can spur us on to advance in the playoffs.”
The players took notice too, scoring twice in the second half and celebrating behind the net conveniently located in front of the Battle Born Brigade.
“Honestly, the fans were even better than we expected. Despite the fact that there is only 250 of them,” said midfielder Kevin Partida. “Walking out before kickoff and how loud it was, I think definitely gave us an extra push.”
The path to the USL Championship runs through Greater Nevada Field after the 1868 put up a league-best 36 points in the regular season.
The club is still hopeful to get more than 250 fans into its next postseason contest – a Western Conference semifinal against Phoenix Rising FC – and has even started a waitlist due to high demand for ticket sales.
The Azules only meeting with Phoenix this season came at Greater Nevada Field where Reno posted a 2-1 win.
At the time it was the 1868’s third consecutive match without a loss. Now, that run is at 11 contests and the fans know that three more wins equal a USL title.
“I’m so proud of what they’re doing and I just had to be here to support them,” Moreno said.
Reno and Phoenix are set to kickoff at 6 p.m. Saturday.