Before he exited into the tunnel, he managed to lift his head and force a smile to clap to the fans at his new home stadium.
“Cheers, thank you” he said as he disappeared toward the locker rooms at Canvas Stadium on the campus of Colorado State.
It summed up a rainy Tuesday night for Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC.
It was a frustrating night on the pitch (a 2-1 defeat to Forward Madison FC) but another new beginning as the first-year franchise played its first game in Fort Collins after using the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley as its temporary base for the first five home games of the season.
Chance to make new fans
The Hailstorm played the first five home games at Jackson Field at the University of Northern Colorado in front of crowds ranging from barely more than 100 to just over 800.
Official attendance Tuesday at Canvas Stadium was listed at 683, but many players said it was a higher energy crowd than they had been playing in front of, and even in the cavernous 36,500-seat football stadium there was energy on the field.
“The fans were brilliant,” said Jerry Desdunes, who scored the lone goal of the match for the Hailstorm.
Even after the frustrating defeat, many players lingered to take photos, sign autographs and thank fans, many of whom were wearing white Hailstorm shirts as part of a gameday giveaway.
“Tonight was a very great crowd out there. Very supportive crowd. A lot of chants going out,” said forward Irvin Parra. “That motivated us, that felt good. That will be nice to keep having that and bring more people that don’t know of Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC to come out and show support.”
The crowd seemed to have fun. They loudly waved goodbye to the Forward Madison coach after he was ejected, prompting a four-letter response from an assistant directed at the fans.
Captain Rob Cornwall slowly trudged through the rain and ruefully shook his head.
A loud “Let’s go … Hailstorm!” chant rang out in the final minutes as the hosts pushed for an equalizer.
In many ways, the energetic new crowd, many of whom had never seen the USL1 team play before, made the defeat even harder to stomach.
“It’s more important to grow this football in Northern Colorado, Fort Collins, Windsor, Greeley, Loveland and the surrounding areas,” coach Éamon Zayed said. “It’s more important than results, but I feel I’ve been around in football long enough there was a good opportunity to win tonight and they go home and be happy and they’ll come back again. They like when the team’s winning. Everyone likes when the team is winning, so that’s disappointing. I enjoyed it. Other than the result, I think they enjoyed it.”
Canvas Stadium is Hailstorm's temporary home
The Hailstorm play at Canvas Stadium again on July 13 (7 p.m. vs. Central Valley Fuego FC) and July 17 (4 p.m. vs. Charlotte Independence) as they continue their nomadic home existence before their stadium is built.
There’s no official completion date announced yet for Future Legends Complex.
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This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Northern Colorado Hailstorm play first pro soccer match at CSU