COLUMBUS — Nine minutes into the Columbus Crew’s home match against Minnesota United, dark clouds full of lightning rolled in, causing a severe weather delay. After about an hour, the teams took the field again to warm up and play restarted at 6:02 p.m. ET.
The alert forced fans to empty the stands and seek refuge in the concourses of MAPFRE stadium as heavy rain began to pour down. They huddled together for refuge from the storm and 45-degree weather, which felt colder in the wind and rain.
“This is a really important Crew game. And we’ve been coming to every game that we can, so we feel that we have to see the season out and support our team,” said season-ticket holder Tara Wood, who sat on the damp concrete floor of the upper concourse.
“And we just saved the Crew, so — ” said Wood’s daughter, Isabella, a sophomore in high school unfazed when strong gusts of wind splashed massive raindrops down on their heads.
While the Crew and Loons waited to retake the pitch, the other 10 Decision Day matches continued on. Sunday marked the final day of the 2018 Major League Soccer regular season.
Columbus was playing to hold onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, entering the night two points ahead of seventh-place Montreal, which was eliminated Sunday with a loss to the New England Revolution.
“There’s a new ownership group coming on and we thought it was important to support the Crew,” Zach Watson, a 29-year-old who works in marketing and has supported the Crew the last four years, said when asked why he decided to wait out the weather delay. “It’s the last game of the season … and this game is really, super important because, obviously, they’re trying to get into the playoffs, and we just had to be here to show our support. This is our city.”
— Alicia Rose DelGallo (@OSAliciaD) October 29, 2018
Watson attended the match with his friend, Brandon Eldridge, 28, who only recently took an interest in the Crew. The two followed the year-long relocation saga, which involved current Crew SC operator/investor Anthony Precourt pushing to move the franchise to Austin. Recently, the league announced local investors are working to keep the Crew in Columbus.
“The past year of my life has been, like, following the story and trying to see what’s happening,” Watson said. “This team has never been promoted well, even before Anthony Precourt. In 2008, I was in college and I found out the Crew won the [MLS] championship like the day after. Why did I find out the day after? So, I’m excited for local ownership to take over and for this team to be promoted like it should be.”
A huge cheer from the crowd interrupted Watson’s thought. An announcement came over the loudspeaker saying the game would soon resume.
Some fans had left, but those who remained filtered back into their seats. The Crew rewarded them almost instantly when Gyasi Zardes scored in the 11th minute. Less than two minutes after the restart, the Crew held 1-0 lead.
Columbus went on to win the game 3-2, securing fifth place in the Eastern Conference and a trip to face D.C. United in the first round of the playoffs.