Soccer postponements are uncommon. Aside from sustained lightning, a snowstorm or a severely waterlogged pitch, the game goes on.
But when a monster thunderstorm roared through the area Saturday with D.C. United and Real Salt Lake in a 29th-minute scoreless deadlock, RFK Stadium’s field turned into a newly formed lake and the steps to the locker rooms morphed into raging waterfalls.
The rain and lightning subsided after 90 minutes and the field began to drain, but too much water had fallen and several stubborn puddles stood. At about 9:05 p.m., after inspecting the field, referee Drew Fischer postponed the match.
The MLS teams will pick up where they left off Sunday at 7 p.m.
The postponement continued a strange summer for United: Last month, weather issues cancelled team flights to Montreal and Minnesota and forced D.C. to arrive on the day of the game. (United lost both by a combined 6-0.)
In United’s 22-season history, a few home matches have been postponed because of severe weather and others hampered by power outages.
This is United’s final year at RFK, which opened in 1961. Next summer, the club will move into Audi Field, a 20,000-capacity venue near Nationals Park.
Saturday’s storm interrupted Paul Arriola’s D.C. debut. The U.S. national team midfielder joined United this past week after transferring from Mexican club Tijuana.
He was the only one of United’s four newcomers to start Saturday. Midfielder Russell Canouse and Bolivian forward Bruno Miranda were on the bench, while Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Stieber remains ineligible until his work permit is approved.
Real Salt Lake arrived with three consecutive draws and four individuals with local ties: former United players Nick Rimando, Luis Silva and Mike Petke (now RSL’s head coach) and Crofton native Kyle Beckerman.
United’s busy off-field activities during the week carried into match day with notable upticks in body language and energy.
Arriola worked a combination with Jared Jeffrey, freeing Nick DeLeon for a rising threat that Rimando punched away. Arriola’s speed and one-touch instincts helped United play at a fast pace.
But with the storm approaching, the players hustled to the locker rooms and the fans were instructed to take shelter on the concourse.
Notes: Lloyd Sam (red card suspension), Ian Harkes (ankle), Patrick Nyarko (concussion), Taylor Kemp (hip) and Rob Vincent (knee) weren’t available. … Julian Buescher was on the game-day roster but, to make room on the international classification for Stieber, he is expected to go on loan soon to the second-division Rochester Rhinos.