Crew, FC Dallas play to scoreless tie
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Columbus Crew and FC Dallas paused before their scoreless draw Sunday to support the recovery of a firefighter who was struck by lightning in the southwest parking lot of Crew Stadium.
The Major League Soccer teams were scheduled to play on Saturday night, but their game was rescheduled after Stu Tudor was hit during a pregame storm. The 54-year-old lieutenant in the Columbus Fire Department is in critical condition in the intensive care unit of the Ohio State Medical Center.
The Crew and FC Dallas held a moment of silence before their game, and fans held up signs in support of Tudor, who was off duty at the time of the strike.
“Here, you have a man like that who saves lives on a regular basis, who comes out on his off day to see us play,” Crew forward Justin Meram said. “For something like that to happen to him, we’re hoping for the best for him and his family.”
Dallas defender Zach Lloyd said he and his teammates were affected by the situation.
“I know a lot of guys were thinking about his family and their well-being,” he said. “That was tough for our group. I think we did a good job of refocusing for the game.”
Columbus Fire Department Battalion Chief Tracy Smith said it’s not known if Tudor was struck directly but he had to be resuscitated. Smith said it takes between two and three days to determine the effects of a possible lightning strike.
“We’re all in (Tudor’s) corner. He’s one of us,” said Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter, who sported a small red ribbon on his shirt during the game as a sign of support. “He was certainly on our minds the last 24 hours.”
A brief, heavy downpour began 18 minutes into Sunday’s game, but it was quickly replaced by sunshine for the remainder of the match. There was a chance for more thunderstorms later in the afternoon as the temperature reached the mid-80s with high humidity.
The weather was not a deterrent for Tim Hoehnke of the Columbus suburb of Bexley, who brought his family back to Crew Stadium for a second straight day.
“I’m not worried,” he said before the game. “It was kind of a freak storm (Saturday) that popped up real quick.”
Stadium officials directed Hoehnke’s family to go underneath the stands for cover when rain and lighting moved into the area Saturday, but he was still outside the entrance.
“I saw the flash of the guy who got struck by lightning,” he said. “They took care of him quickly when he got struck.”
A Crew spokesman said the team followed MLS policy when it learned lightning strikes were within range of the stadium and immediately ordered fans to exit the double-deck venue in which the majority of the seating is aluminum bleachers.
“They handled everything quite well,” Hoehnke said. “They got everybody out of the stadium all right. No one panicked.”
The match was not officially rescheduled until 12:45 a.m. Sunday and the crowd of 4,680 for the 2 p.m. start was far less than the sellout of 20,672 the Crew said it would have had for Saturday’s match.
MLS Executive Vice President Dan Courtemanche said in a statement it is league protocol to try and play rescheduled games the next day.
Crew defender Eric Gehrig had no problem with the decision to postpone the game once he heard of the circumstances.
“Our minds were off soccer at that point,” he said.
There was a subdued atmosphere before Sunday’s game, and it was evident Tudor was on the minds of many. Some people paused to stare at the spot where Tudor was struck before continuing to the gates and two Columbus Division of Police officers working the stadium plaza said they visited Tudor earlier that morning.
In one corner of the parking lot members of the team’s support groups — collectively known as the Nordecke — painted black words on two gold banners an hour before the kickoff.
They later moved to the northeast corner of the stadium and before the Star Spangled Banner unfurled their work, “Nordecke’s with Stu” and “Get well Stu.”