Columbus Crew SC is becoming the resident expert in dealing with weather delays. Just two and a half weeks ago, the Black & Gold dealt with a 90-minute delay before a 4-3 victory over Real Salt Lake. On Wednesday night, it was nearly two hours of waiting after almost 26 minutes played in a 4-0 U.S. Open Cup win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The weather hiccups seem to be working for Crew SC.
"I want to know, what’s our record in these rain delays," Justin Meram asked following the match. "Salt Lake, delay, come out, four goals. Delay here, four goals."
Despite the offensive outburst in the contest, it was the Rowdies who were the better team before the match was stopped. Even though Columbus had more of the possession, the NASL side had all three shots over the first 25 minutes and looked the more likely to score.
Once the teams returned from the locker room and warmed up, the Black & Gold looked like the superior side they were expected to be and Meram gave his club the lead just 15 minutes after play resumed.
So what was the magic touch?
"We actually watched video and we saw some things that we thought we could take advantage and so it was clear," head coach Gregg Berhalter said. "We can diagram it, put it out on the board, and luckily we took advantage of that."
The stoppage was similar to a halftime when things aren’t going right, it just came 20 minutes early. It allowed Columbus to regroup and get focused after the sloppy start following two weeks off from match play.
"I think it helps get us an idea of how we want to play," Ethan Finlay said of watching film during the delay. "Kind of getting back to our style of play and I think we got away from that in these last couple MLS games. It’s just a refresher and a reminder that this is our style and this is what we want to do."
While learning from the mistakes of a slow start and regrouping was certainly part of Crew SC’s break, there had to be more when waiting in the bowels of a stadium for the match to resume.
"We were talking to their coach for about 45 minutes," Berhalter began. "I don’t know. Walking around, drinking water, chatting, listening to music. There’s a whole bunch of stuff to do. Guys get on their phone and start going on the Internet. People can’t be without their phones any more."
Phones are obviously one source of entertainment, but some Columbus players still keep it old school after cellphone games get boring.
"To be honest, if you want to know what I really did, I was playing a game on my phone and then I did a Hangman against Michael Parkhurst," Meram said.
Obviously graduating from a prestigious school like the University of Michigan, Meram should be able to defeat his captain — who went to Wake Forest — in a simple spelling game.
"I spelled the word wrong so I was disqualified," Meram admitted sheepishly. "The word was 'Description.’ I picked the long word. I can’t tell you the first two words. I spelled it D-I; it should have been D-E."
While the break does provide time for a bit of fun and a little competition between players, there remains a game to be played. Just like fans, the players are waiting anxiously to get back out on the field and don’t know much of what is going on outside. When they receive word that the game is back on, it's a return to the mission at hand.
"Obviously once we know we’re about 20, 30 minutes out, we get right back to how we would start a game had their been no delay," Finlay said.
"Once we get kind of into it, we’ve got to refocus. Obviously tonight was quite a long one, but it was great to see us refocus and obviously come out well in that mid-first half I guess."
On the year, Crew SC has four wins in all competition. Two of those victories have come following a weather delay. While the players and staff obviously want to get home at a reasonable hour, maybe a rain dance or two will help the side get things moving in the right direction.
Oh, and someone might want to help Meram with his spelling. Maybe one of the Ohio State tutors will volunteer.