The Columbus Crew and FC Dallas were able to reconvene for their inter-conference match Sunday, after “extenuating circumstances” during a pregame severe weather alert saw a fan get struck by lightning in Crew Stadium’s parking lot Saturday.
A downpour of rain and lightning striking visibly close to the stadium had led to the issuance of an emergency alert that urged fans to seek shelter just before the scheduled kickoff of 8 p.m.
Stu Tudor, an off-duty lieutenant of the Columbus Fire Department, was one of thousands of fans waiting to see if the weather would let up. A bolt of lightning struck near a bank of portable restrooms by the southwest corner of the stadium and seriously injured him.
“First responders were called to Crew Stadium to address an incident surrounding the inclement weather that delayed tonight’s contest,” the Crew said in an press release via email at 10:07 p.m. Saturday. “Due to these extenuating circumstances, the match was postponed. During tonight’s thunderstorm that caused the severe weather delay, an individual was injured during the inclement weather and was transported to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.”
Bystanders said Tudor was unresponsive when emergency services arrived to provide care, according to multiple reports.
He was later reported as being in critical condition.
In a Sunday press release, MLS Executive Vice President Dan Courtemanche said the decisions to both postpone and subsequently reschedule the match for Sunday afternoon were made by the league, keeping fan safety in mind.
“Due to the inclement weather in Ohio and the unfortunate incident that occurred in the parking lot outside Columbus Crew Stadium last night, Major League Soccer made the decision to postpone the game between FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew,” Courtemanche said. “The health and safety of our fans is always our top priority, and we believe it was the right decision to postpone the match.”
Courtemanche also said it was “standard policy” to reschedule the game for the following day, if it is possible and feasible for both teams.
“All of us—including Dallas as well—you prepare all day for a match, and then it gets delayed and you hear something like that. You don’t want to play,” midfielder Justin Meram said after the match of the team’s mindset after learning of Tudor’s injury Saturday evening. “I think it was the right thing to do (to postpone the match).”
So on Sunday, the Crew (4-5-7) and FC Dallas (6-7-5) kicked off at 2 p.m. and played to a 0-0 tie in both teams’ first regular season action since June 7 and 11, respectively. MLS instituted a break in play for the FIFA World Cup, just as the NHL did while the 2014 Winter Olympics were taking place in Sochi, Russia.
Columbus played efficiently in the first half and notched two shots on goal on five attempts.
Midfielders Ben Speas and Tony Tchani stepped up early to direct traffic and set the pace of attacking sequences, often relying on fellow midfielders Wil Trapp and Hector Jimenez to cross balls in from the side to generate scoring opportunities.
The Black and Gold possessed and skillfully passed the ball often, attaining a 61.5 percent control advantage and 90.6 percent in passing accuracy in the second half.
In the 13th minute, Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark moved forward to confront a Dallas attack and went down with contact in the penalty area, but play continued with no foul call. Defender Michael Parkhurst manned the goal in Clark’s stead and was able to block an accurate shot from Dallas midfielder Michel to keep the game scoreless.
“It’s very important, me as a goalkeeper. It’s a very tight line between success and failure when you come out of your net like that,” Clark said after the match. “Michael’s been there for me all year and we have each other’s backs. And he had me today. It’s a really big save for the team and for me as well.”
Clark later came up big in the 83rd minute when he stopped the ball on the goal line after a header from Dallas forward David Texeira. Sunday’s clean sheet marked his second consecutive shutout after not surrendering any goals at D.C. United June 7.
Defender Eric Gehrig used his head to deflect a bending cross kicked from the left side of Dallas’ attacking half by Michel in the 61st minute, and Gehrig was consistently in position to defend the barrage of three consecutive Dallas corner kicks that happened next.
“Every game, I always experience a time where it’s about survival mode. No matter what game it is, there’s always been a five-, 10-minute stretch where it’s about digging in and fighting and getting out of it. I think that was one of those cases,” Gehrig said of the task of defending three straight corners. “The message to the guys is just hold on and hang in there and not let that decide the game. I thought we bent a little bit but didn’t break.”
Showing their support for the hospitalized Tudor, numerous Crew players—including Gehrig, Trapp, and defender Bernardo Anor—walked over to the Nordecke fan section after the match to sign a fan-made banner that read, “Get Well Stu.”
The coaches of both teams also wore red ribbons pinned to their shirts as a gesture of goodwill and solidarity for Tudor.
“This is something you have to do, this is your job. You have to kind of put it behind you … as well as, you know, play for him (Tudor),” Meram said.
Columbus is slated to travel west to take on the Colorado Rapids next on the July 4 holiday. Kickoff is scheduled for Friday at 9:30 p.m.