It was an extraordinary night—one that will surely go down in American sporting folklore.
Despite blizzard-like conditions in Denver, the World Cup qualifier between the United States and Costa Rica went ahead, and even though the conditions worsened as the match wore on, both sides were adamant that the full 90 minutes be played on Friday rather than delayed into the weekend.
More snow—and even colder weather—was expected for Saturday, so when the match commissioner temporarily halted play in the 54th minute, USA manager Jurgen Klinsmann and his Costa Rican counterpart Jorge Luis Pinto, along with players from each team, implored referee Joel Aguilar that the game go on.
He agreed, and after a stoppage of about three minutes, play resumed at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
As a football match, the play was hardly compelling. Rather, it was the uniqueness of the evening that captivated both the fans in the stands and those watching on television. No doubt many recalled similar nights from their childhood, staying out late after dinner to play football, hockey or whatever sport—the weather being merely an unhelpful backdrop you could choose either to play through or succumb to.
On Friday both the United States and Costa Rica chose to play through it, and they were helped along the way by grounds staff that kept the lines as clear as possible during stoppages.
The three points taken by the United States could prove vital, and if they happen to sneak into the World Cup following the Hexagonal, then it just might be Clint Dempsey’s goal, scored in an early-spring blizzard that got them to rather warmer climes.
There was still only a slight sprinkling of snow on the field ahead of kickoff.
The fans at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park seemed to embrace the conditions, perhaps recognizing that they were involved in something quite extraordinary.
Clint Dempsey took to the conditions better than most. Costa Rica had a decent spell shortly after the restart but was second-best much of the night.
The grounds staff was exceptional on Friday, shoveling the lines whenever a stoppage permitted.
The only goal of the night came in the 16th minute when Dempsey got on the end of a deflected Jozy Altidore shot and buried the ball past the goalkeeper.
Conditions worsened considerably in the second half, and for once the supporters’ scarves were put to practical use.
All in all, an important three points for the United States—taken on a bizarre, albeit memorable, night in Colorado.