After a short lightning storm delayed the start of the Riverhounds' match Friday night against Wigan Athletic, forward Jose Angulo didn't waste much time delivering a shock of his own to the visitors from England.
Angulo scored in just the third minute to give the Riverhounds a lead against the reigning FA Cup winners and, for at least a brief moment, send packed Highmark Stadium into a frenzy.
"I was hoping lightning would strike again," Riverhounds coach Justin Evans joked. "If they had called the game after four minutes, that would have been perfect. I was looking at the sky to see if there was any lightning."
Alas, the skies remained clear for the rest of the evening and Wigan ended up winning the match, 4-1, but the result was almost secondary at the first Frank B. Fuhrer International Friendly. For eight minutes -- the duration of the Riverhounds' lead -- Evans' squad felt like they were on top of the soccer world.
"Coming into this game, there were so many hours of work to get this done," Riverhounds CEO and midfielder Jason Kutney said. "When [Angulo] put that in, it was like every ounce of energy to make the game happen was well worth it at that point."
While the early goal gave the Riverhounds an energy boost, it also served as a quick wake-up call for Wigan.
"We won, 6-1, the other night, and if there was any degree of complacency -- I don't think there was -- but if there was, that certainly gives you a shock to your system," Wigan manager Owen Coyle said. "You have to come out all guns blazing."
Wigan responded in the 11th minute, when defender and former Ohio State player Roger Espinoza corralled a pass about 25 yards away from goal outside the left edge of the box. His low shot was perfectly placed to the right of Riverhounds goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap and tied the score, 1-1.
In the 28th minute, a foul by Riverhounds defender Rich Costanzo gave Wigan a free kick from about 30 yards away, and Ben Watson delivered a picture-perfect cross that found Emmerson Boyce, who converted an easy header past Gilstrap to give the visitors a 2-1 lead at halftime.
"I thought we played very well, especially in the first half," Evans said. "They got two goals, but we played well. We had a couple of chances where we could've come back and tied the score at half."
Because the match was sandwiched in between two big USL Pro games Wednesday and Sunday for the Riverhounds, Evans opted to make a full-out 11-man lineup change heading into the second half.
Grant Holt made the lead 3-1 for Wigan in the 48th minute when he poked in a cross from Jean Beausejour. Just a minute later, the Riverhounds appeared to get a goal back, but Jhonny Arteaga's apparent score was wiped off because of offsides.
Wigan's Jordi Gomez wrapped up the scoring in the 88th minute when he converted a turnaround shot from near the penalty spot to make the final result, 4-1.
"I think this is probably at least two levels above what we've seen here, for sure," Evans said. "Their basic understanding of how to play and where to play, just their speed of play."
Still, after the match the Riverhounds players didn't sulk or rue any missed opportunities. They hung around to sign autographs and watch the post-match fireworks display with smiles on their faces.
"It's awesome," Evans said. "They don't come around too often. You've got to relish the moment and we definitely did. It's different than a league game. I didn't have the knots in my stomach."
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter @SWernerPG. First Published July 20, 2013 4:00 AM