COLUMBUS, Ohio – After a grueling scoreless draw against FC Dallas in the blistering afternoon heat at Crew Stadium, the Columbus Crew admitted that their minds weren't completely on the field.
Columbus Fire Department Lt. Stu Tudor was injured during a lightning storm outside of the stadium Saturday night, and after the incident the match was postponed until Sunday afternoon, a move that the players appreciated.
"Last night, I was certainly glad we didn't play," goalkeeper Steve Clark said after the match. "I thought that was the right decision. It was obviously a terrible tragedy, so I'm glad they rescheduled today. But once the whistle blew, I'm ready to go."
Rather than Saturday's cooler, rainy environment, the game took place in stifling, humid conditions on Sunday, and head coach Gregg Berhalter said the weather contributed to the lackluster draw.
"Last night there was a nice wet field, good conditions, it would have been a fast-paced game, that's what we were looking forward to," he said. "Unfortunately you couldn't get that today. You can't give those energy levels because in the end you won't have the energy to sustain it."
But even with ideal conditions, midfielder Justin Meram said the team would not have wanted to carry on. The Columbus Dispatch newspaper reported that Tudor was transported to Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, where he was in critical condition on Sunday morning.
"You hear something like that, and you don't want to play," he said. "There's a fan out there that was coming to watch all of us, and he's a guy who saves lives himself. Here he is, on a Saturday, coming to the game and relaxing and that happens. So I think that was the right thing to do."
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And while the Crew had to deal with an unusual 2 p.m. local start time and less-than-ideal conditions, Berhalter was sure to note the level playing field and compared the weather to another much-discussed muggy environment.
"It's affecting both teams, so that's what's important to recognize," he said. "Dallas is hanging around an extra day, and their rhythm is off as well.
"I will compliment both teams for hanging in there and still trying to play the game. The conditions were tough. Phones were saying it feels like 100 degrees, very much like some of these [World Cup] games in Brazil that are going on."
Andrew King covers the Columbus Crew for MLSsoccer.com.