All images: Jonathan Check, Two Ten Soccer
Picture this: you’re a professional footballer, spend a few days or even a week preparing yourself mentally and physically for a match, train diligently, travel hundreds of miles and arrive at the stadium…only to be holed up inside the locker rooms for two extra hours while a surprise storm lays a blanket of hail on the field you are supposed to be playing on.
That’s exactly the situation San Antonio FC found themselves in on June 30 when they came to play against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Weidner Field. The forecast for the day showed rain and thunderstorms, then when hail came into the mix it just so happened to come down on the stage for that night’s match.
“That game in Colorado, that was the craziest thing I think I’ve ever seen, really, when it comes to the field,” said Ryan Roushandel, SAFC midfielder/defender and captain. Head Coach Darren Powell said he’d never seen anything like that happen to a soccer field.
Despite the crazy turn of events, credit should be given to Switchbacks FC’s workers for their diligence in clearing the field to the point where the referee found it acceptable for a match – though by no means perfect. After the delay, the sides played to a 1-1 draw, and Roushandel lauded his team for having the mental strength to put the circumstances aside and fight for the result.
As if that that wasn’t enough, something similar happened four days later in San Antonio as SAFC prepared to play Oklahoma City Energy FC on July 4. That time though, it was just heavy rains and kickoff was only pushed back an hour, after which SAFC took an obligatory 1-1 draw in the matchup with their regional rivals.
By both Roushandel’s and Powell’s accounts though, there’s nothing new they do when they’re stuck with a weather delay, even though it complicates their routine a bit. They’re in a holding pattern, if you will, just trying to prolong that last stage of pregame preparation before the real festivities begin.
“You don’t know when you’re going to play, you don’t know when the field’s going to get cleared so it’s really just trying to stay focused but at the same time you’ve got to stay loose,” Roushandel said. “When you have to wait an hour or two, you’ve got to relax, recharge the batteries a bit and then get ready to go and ramp it back up when it’s game time.”
Powell said he always discusses tactics and strategy with the team an hour before kickoff, and the weather delays didn’t change that. Perhaps keeping that part of the routine the same had a knock-on effect as well.
“What I found with this group of players is (the delays) didn’t affect them in any shape or form,” Powell said. “They just remained focused and made sure they did what they needed to do.”
Powell also said the delay would have been less jarring the second time around because it took place at Toyota Field, where players and coaches can feel a familiar sense of both comfort and competition. It’s also likely that it wouldn’t have been as jarring because they had recently gone through the same thing, and at twice the duration.
One can’t predict these things far in advance, but the experiences SAFC had in recent weeks may prove useful down the line if and when this happens again. As Powell says, there are variables you deal with when playing the game, and weather sometimes proves to be a highly impactful one.