By FRANCO PANIZO
HARRISON, N.J. — MLS tried time and time again to ensure that the second leg of the New York Red Bulls-D.C. United’s Eastern Conference semifinals would be played on Wednesday, but mother nature refused to cooperate.
MLS was forced to postpone the Red Bulls-D.C. United game at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night due to heavy snowfall from a nor’easter covering the field and making it unplayable. Groundscrew members tried to shovel off the snow even after the original kickoff time in an effort to see the match played, but the weather made it impossible.
“Obviously, it’s a difficult set of circumstances from the time that we got to the arena,” said MLS executive vice president Nelson Rodriguez. “There were a lot of factors that were considered in originally making this decision to play on Wednesday. Looking at the forecast over time, at no point was it clear that there would be so much so snow and when we decided to make the effort to play, we were hoping to see that effort through.
“In the end, we did not feel we could get the field into a playable enough condition and therefore that caused the postponement.”
Rodriguez admitted there was no deadline for the league to make a decision on if the match would be played but he said forecasts had the storm passing after midnight, which was too late for the match to be played.
The second leg of the Red Bulls-United series is now scheduled for Thursday at 730pm and the delay of that game will also push back the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals, which was slated to start on Saturday.
“The Eastern Conference championship leg one will move from Saturday to Sunday,” said. “We decided it would be unfair for the winner of this semifinals series to have to play the winner of Houston (Dynamo)-Sporting Kansas City, having played Thursday (then) Saturday.”
Rodriguez added that the original forecast was for heavy winds and rain, which contradicted Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe’s comments on Tuesday. Backe said the Wednesday night match should have been postponed or moved to an earlier time because the storm was set to peak around kickoff.
Rodriguez also stated part of the reason MLS attempted to have the game on Wednesday night was because moving the game earlier proved difficult due to lack of available stadium and city workers, as well as trying to help appease local fans that were affected by the recent hurricane that ravaged the tri-county area.
“We were very mindful of what the impact of this nor’easter could be and we were also very mindful of the trauma that has been experienced by the region from Hurricane Sandy,” said Rodriguez. “In the end, we felt that making an attempt to play today gave us the best chance to get this game in. Normally, had it not been for the events of last week and the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, there wouldn’t have been a consideration to move the game in advance.
“We did consider that. We considered an earlier start time, we considered postponing to tomorrow (on Tuesday) and even had discussions as early as this morning. But we thought that the forecast was one that gave us a window and opportunity to play the game and play it safely and to cause the least disruption to the overall playoff schedule. Unfortunately, nature has a funny way of playing tricks on people.”
The postponement of the the game should allow more fans to come out to the match, and the few hundred that turned out on Wednesday night will be able to return on Thursday. As for the approximately 700 D.C. United supporters who took buses to turn out to Red Bull Arena, they headed back to the nation’s capital after the announcement of the match’s postponement.
Rodriguez said they could return tomorrow via bus if they wished to do so.
“The league, and through great generosity of New York Red Bull, provided those tickets and buses to those supporters. That was in homage and recognition to having to flip-flop the order of games to begin with (because of Hurricane Sandy).
“The league has already expressed, and Red Bull has been very generous for their part as well and have expressed to D.C. United that if fans wish to return in an organized fashion through buses, we will organize that on their behalf.”