Crew SC and the LA Galaxy played to a 1-1 tie on Saturday, but let’s face it, what most people are going to remember about the night are the two-hour-and-15-minute lightning delay that pushed kickoff back to 9:45, plus the fact that Justin Meram played 90 threatening minutes after playing 55 minutes for the Iraqi national team just two days earlier. In Japan.
Let’s start there.
After playing at 7 a.m. ET on Thursday in Yokahama, Meram made the 6,559-mile trek to Columbus. There have already been two articles written about this, so you can read Christian Taske’s HERE or Andrew King’s HERE.
After the media scrum, Meram and I chatted a little more about his improbable journey, so here is some bonus material. For example, despite captain Michael Parkhurst’s joking dismissal of Meram’s journey by saying that Meram was flying in first class, the trip home to Columbus took even longer than anticipated.
“I had a delay in Chicago,” Meram said. “It felt like it took longer to get from Chicago to Columbus than it did from Japan to Chicago. It was about a three-hour difference. It was unbelievable. That’s how it goes when you fly into O’Hare.”
After getting in Friday night and benefitting from the work of head athletic trainer Craig Devine, Meram got to bed at midnight, which seemed like a reasonable time that would get him immediately back on track. Until he was wide awake at 5:00 in the morning.
“So that’s how my day went,” he laughed. “I took two 30 minute naps. But I have that desire. I love this club and I love being back here in front of the fans and I really wanted to play this match against a quality team.”
And then Saturday’s game replicated his delay experience at O’Hare. Due to the lightning delay, it was well after midnight as we spoke.
“I’m off to bed,” he said. “I’m calling it a night.”
I don’t know for certain that this is a comprehensive list, but here are some notably delayed kickoffs in MAPFRE Stadium’s history. I am not talking about mid-game interruptions, but rather when the start of the game has been delayed. When thinking about it, these popped into my head.
September 30, 2006: Columbus 3 – Dallas 1
Kickoff of the 2006 home finale was delayed 30 minutes due to a thunderstorm. It was a shame too, as it was Dante Washington night, whereby the club presented the recently retired former striker with a framed jersey in a pregame ceremony to thank him for his service to the club. Most memorably, and most fittingly, Crew SC’s three goals were scored by a Dante Voltron:
- A bald guy: Jacob Thomas.
- A black guy: Joseph Ngwenya.
- Jersey #9: Jason Garey.
“That is just an unbelievable conglomerate of human beings,” Dante said to me after the game as we marveled over that diverse, multi-Dante-attribute goal-scoring combo on Dante Washington night. “I don’t think that will ever be duplicated.”
June 30, 2012: Columbus 2 – Salt Lake 0
On Friday, a severe storm known as a derecho produced 85 mile-per-hour winds that toppled trees, damaged property, and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of Central Ohio homes and businesses. Saturday’s match was in limbo, but power was restored to MAPFRE Stadium at 5 p.m. on game day, allowing for the match to kick off at 9 p.m., which was just one hour later than scheduled. A loud crowd of 19,764 cheered Columbus on to victory, thankful for a respite from the drudgery and discomfort of power-free living.
Afterward, then-RSL coach Jason Kreis, reacting to this communal triumph in the face of a vast disaster, deemed the delayed kickoff to be “unprofessional.” This prompted then-Crew SC GM Mark McCullers to note the incredible effort put forth by American Electric Power, Crew SC and MLS staff, and the Columbus community as a whole to create a positive experience in the midst of city-wide chaos. “His remarks were out of line, insensitive and unwarranted,” McCullers concluded.
April 27, 2013: Columbus 3 – D.C. United 0
The legendary scoreboard fire of 2013 delayed the opening kickoff by 50 minutes. “That’s not something you see every day, obviously, where the scoreboard bursts into flames,” midfielder Eddie Gaven said. It turns out that it was an electrical fire that originated in a subwoofer in the scoreboard’s sound system. Thanks to great work by the men and women of the Columbus Fire Department, the scoreboard flames were tamed in short order. Nobody was injured and the game kicked off without scoreboard graphics and speakers.
This game is notable not only for the scoreboard fire, but also that it was Anthony Precourt’s very first time visiting Columbus. Despite the surreal first impression, he bought the club three months later. Then he quickly paid for the installation of a brand new, much improved scoreboard and sound system that offseason.
August 31, 2013: Seattle 1 – Columbus 0
After kickoff was delayed nearly two hours by a thunderstorm, Seattle got an early red card that forced them to play a man down for the final 83 minutes. Eddie Johnson scored a set piece header in the 15th minute that would stand up as the game-winner. Of historical significance, this turned out to be the final game of Robert Warzycha’s coaching tenure.
June 28, 2014: Columbus vs. Dallas, ppd.
Prior to kickoff, fans were asked to leave the seating area and take cover because of an approaching thunderstorm. As the fans inside the stadium congregated on the covered concourses, Columbus Fire Department Lt. Stu Tudor was out in the parking lot, where he was struck by lightning. (A year later, Lt. Tudor is still recovering from his injuries. Please visit the GoFundMe page established by his friends and family to learn how you can help: http://www.gofundme.com/Lt-Stu-Tudor. As news of the tragedy spread, the game was postponed and rescheduled for the following afternoon. A glum and listless affair played with heavy hearts, the rescheduled game ended in a 0-0 draw.
June 13, 2015: Columbus 1 – LA Galaxy 1
This is the one that just happened. Depending on how many beers you downed during the delay, you probably remember it. Crew SC President of Business Operations Andy Loughnane wrote a whole blog post about how the club approached the delay and the rationale behind it, which you can read HERE.
So those are some notable MAPFRE Stadium pre-match delays that I can think of over the years. There may be others I have forgotten. If so, please refresh my memory in the comments or via email or Twitter. You can even include mid-game delays if you’d like, such as the 2005 match against Dallas. It might be fun to compile a comprehensive list of all delays. At least if you’re a nerd like me. Speaking of which…
Counting all competitions, Saturday marked the 29th time in MAPFRE Stadium history that Crew SC’s attendance topped 20,000. (After recent renovations, the stadium’s seating capacity is now 19,968, so it requires a standing-room crowd, or the addition of temporary seating, to top that mark nowadays.) The Black & Gold’s record in those games is now 12-8-9 in real soccer, and 12-9-8 if you count the shootout loss against Tampa Bay in 1999 as a loss. (Which the MLS record book does, even though it was a scoreless draw decided by shootout.) In those 29 games, Crew SC has outscored the opposition 39-28.
Saturday’s match was the sixth 20K+ one in the Berhalter era. Columbus is 4-0-2 in those games, with 10 goals scored and 3 goals allowed. Both ties have come after extenuating circumstances involving severe weather.
This was the seventh time the Galaxy have played before 20,000+ at MAPFRE Stadium, which is nearly double the next closest team.
- 7: LA Galaxy (3-2-2)
- 4: Chicago (1-1-2), New England (3-0-1)
- 3: D.C. United (1-1-1)
- 2: San Jose (1-1-0), New York (1-1-0), Montreal (2-0-0)
- 1: Colorado (0-0-1), Dallas (0-0-1), Chivas USA (0-1-0), Seattle (0-1-0), Tampa Bay (0-1-0 or 0-0-1, depending on shootout classification.)
- 05/15/99: W 2-0 vs. New England [24,741]
- 05/22/99: SOL 0-0 vs. Tampa Bay [20,782]
- 09/09/00: L 3-2 vs. Chicago [24,347]
- 07/21/01: W 2-1 vs. San Jose [24,033]
- 09/01/01: W 4-1 vs. New England [20,272]
- 09/22/01: L 3-1 vs. San Jose [20,883] (playoffs)
- 07/20/02: T 1-1 vs. Colorado [21,432]
- 08/31/02: T 0-0 vs. New England [24,422]
- 09/14/02: W 2-0 vs. Chicago [22,459]
- 04/05/03: T 1-1 vs. LA Galaxy [22,058]
- 04/03/04: L 3-1 vs. New York [20,356]
- 08/21/04: T 2-2 vs. D.C. United [23,849]
- 09/25/04: W 1-0 vs. D.C. United [23,775]
- 10/02/04: T 2-2 vs. Chicago [23,250]
- 10/01/05: L 1-0 vs. Chivas USA [20,548]
- 04/15/06: T 1-1 vs. Chicago [20,818]
- 08/19/06: W 1-0 vs. New York [20,149]
- 08/18/07: L 2-0 vs. D.C. United [21,639]
- 09/30/07: L 2-1 vs. LA Galaxy [24,300]
- 10/04/08: W 1-0 vs. LA Galaxy [22,685]
- 09/26/09: W 2-0 vs. LA Galaxy [20,966]
- 09/24/11: L 1-0 vs. LA Galaxy [21,203]
- 08/31/13: L 1-0 vs. Seattle [20,392]
- 06/29/14: T 0-0 vs. Dallas [20,617]
- 07/19/14: W 2-1 vs. Montreal [21,112]
- 08/16/14: W 4-1 vs. LA Galaxy [20,729]
- 09/20/14: W 1-0 vs. New England [21,318]
- 09/27/14: W 2-0 vs. Montreal [20,318]
- 06/13/15: T 1-1 vs. LA Galaxy [21,051]
The five 20K+ games last year were a MAPFRE Stadium record. This season, the front office got a two-week head start on last year’s first sellout, so hopefully this list will get updated a few more times in 2015. And hopefully the weather will be nice when it does. That’s absolutely crazy that three of the past seven 20k+ crowds have endured severe weather delays. Columbus is due for some sunny sellouts.
Seeing a fan wearing an old Crew SC jersey in the parking lot got me to thinking about a trivia question, and thereby prompted perhaps a new Notebook feature called Mr. Trivia Nerd.
Question: What is the most popular surname in club history?
One can reasonably expect there would be only one Abukusumo or Maisonneuve or Rzepa in club history, but there are eight names that have repeated on the back of a Crew SC jersey over the years. As a hint, one of those names has appeared three different times, while the other seven have appeared twice. (Two of those seven are tricky as one member of the same-name duo never played in a regular season match.)
You can ponder that for a bit. The answer will be revealed shortly.
As the players waited out the delay, they watched some MLS action on TV, they congregated in the tunnel, and they invented fun games to pass the time, like this incredible video of a back and forth headball assembly line that finished with Ethan Finlay nodding the ball into a large laundry bucket.
Not only is this video awesome each and every one of the too many times that I watch it, but I love how you can see captain Michael Parkhurst in the background, curiously keeping an eye on the progression, and then when everyone is going crazy afterward and Parkhurst appears in the background again, he was already back to doing whatever he was doing. That’s a very underrated aspect of that incredibly entertaining video.
Speaking after the game, Parkhurst raised one dilemma about the delay that I had not considered from a player’s perspective: food. In terms of timing and menu, teams orchestrate their pregame meals for peak performance at game time. When there’s a delay, all that goes out the window.
“The tough thing was that we didn’t know if it was going to be a half hour, an hour, or two hours, so you try to take your mind off things,” Parkhurst said. “As time drags on, you think maybe we’re going to kick off tomorrow. You’re trying to eat some food since you haven’t eaten since four, and as soon as you do, they say, ‘Okay, ten minutes and you’re on the field.’ It’s the same for both teams though. It’s not ideal, but both teams had to go through it.”
The most popular surname in club history is Williams. Here is the list, with each player’s years and number of MLS regular season games:
- Andy Williams (1998-1999 / 34 games)
- Mark Williams (2003 / 5 games)
- Josh Williams (2010-2014 / 71 games)
The following seven surnames have also been represented by multiple Crew SC team members:
- Mike (1996-2003 / 221 games)
- Steve (2014-present / 49 games)
- Shaun (2010-2012 / 28 games)
- Waylon (2014-present / 36 games)
- Marcos (2006-2007 / 48 games)
- Giancarlo (2014 / 17 games)
- Todd (1996-1997 / 6 games)
- Ryan (2008 / 0 games)
- Jonny (2005-2006 / 16 games)
- Matt (2014 / 0 games)
- Brandon (1996 / 6 games)
- Tim (2006-2007 / 17 games)
- Robert (1996-2002 / 160 games)
- Konrad (2013 / 13 games)
Also, a special honorable mention to the Soundalike Club:
- Ethan Finlay (2012-present / 78 games)
- Ryan Finley (2013-2014 / 14 games)
- Jimmy Glenn (1998 / 5 games)
- Cornell Glen (2005 / 22 games)
As for the origin of this trivia question, when I pulled into the parking lot, I saw someone walking with an old-school #3 (Mike) Clark jersey.
When the teams took the field for warmups after the lightning delay, Steve Clark was the first Crew SC player on the field and he immediately sprinted to the Nordecke to rile them up and get them going. He was happy to see how many fans around the stadium waited out the delay.
“I was excited,” Clark said. “When you see that kind of support after, I don’t know, two-and-a-half hours or whatever…they’re dedicated. They love their team and we want to get more wins for them. It’s really impressive.”
Questions? Comments? Got any other MAPFRE Stadium delays over the years that my feeble brain should remember? Feel free to write at email@example.com or via twitter @stevesirk.
Steve Sirk’s latest book, “Kirk Urso: Forever Massive”, is available at the Crew SC Shop or by ordering online HERE. All proceeds go to the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund for congenital heart defect research.