FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It started like any other New England Revolution match, early on a Saturday evening with a pumped-up crowd of over 20,000 on hand for the action.
It ended on Sunday, nearly five hours after the initial whistle, with just a couple hundred hearty souls on hand to bask in the glory of a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo, thanks to nearly three hours of suspended play.
“You get yourself up for the game, then there’s delays, you don’t know how long the waits are going to be, so it’s a very difficult situation physically and mentally,” said Chris Tierney some time after 12:30 am local time. “I think we did a great job of preparing ourselves. The whole time we were expecting that we were going to play. No one was talking about cancellations or anything like that.
"We were in it mentally the whole time and it showed.”
Prior to the start of the match, the skies around Gillette Stadium looked like a scene out of Ghostbusters, as dark, thick clouds rolled in. But despite the game kicking off on time, encroaching lightning and thunder forced the first suspension of play just 13 minutes into the match.
Both teams returned to their locker rooms and the fans took shelter on the covered concourse, but everyone would be forced to wait an hour and 49 minutes for play to resume as torrential showers blanketed the pitch.
At 9:40 pm local time, the game got back underway, but as halftime neared, so too did the thunder and lightning once again which held up both teams in the locker rooms for yet another delay in play.
“It was just weird,” said the Revolution's Jeremy Hall. “They told us we were going out and we got pushed back. It wasn’t terrible though. We were all in here just hanging out. It went by pretty quick.”
The second suspension of play was quicker than first, as the start of the second half was delayed by one hour and one minute.
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New England put forth more pressure coming out of that delay and finally broke through the wall that was Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric on Jose Goncalves' first goal of the season in the 69th minute, a well-taken volley following a short corner kick that was not properly cleared by the Dynamo.
“I think a lot of relief for myself, for the team, for the guys,” Goncalves said. “We’ve shown that we are a tough team to play and even if we have a delay, bad weather and we have to stay in, we stayed focused. We did our job and that’s why we take our three points tonight.”
It was the first time since Aug. 16, 2003 that a game in Foxborough has experienced a delay, and even though it spanned two days, it was worth the reward at the end as New England now head into a bye next weekend, their second in three weeks.
“Everybody was just professional about it,” said Hall on handling the long delays. “We came in here, we talked about what we needed to do when we went back out there to finally break them down. I think everybody was just ready for it.
"We’re going into a bye week, we had a little bit of momentum, we felt like we could play a little bit harder and we’d have the weekend off.”
Craig Forde covers the New England Revolution for MLSsoccer.com.