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MLS moves Red Bulls-D.C. United playoff first leg to RFK as NY/NJ deals with storm damage (UPDATED)

The devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy has ravaged the New York and New Jersey area, and as a result, Major League Soccer has been forced to move Saturday’s first leg of the New York Red Bulls-D.C. United series from Red Bull Arena to RFK Stadium.

Though Red Bull Arena didn’t sustain any major damage during the storm, the area near the stadium, and the surrounding area, has sustained considerable damage, which left MLS no choice but to switch matches in the home-and-home series.

“This was a tough decision, but one we think was much bigger than the sport of soccer,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber.

Now, the Red Bulls will travel to RFK Stadium on Saturday for the first leg, then host the second leg on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena. The decision effectively hands home-field advantage in the series to the Red Bulls, who will have the edge of hosting a potential overtime and penalty kicks if the series is tied after two matches.

“These are extraordinary circumstances that we all face,” said D.C. United president Kevin Payne. “Our club worked hard ot get home field advantage but there are times when circumstances supercede that, and this is one of those times.”

MLS was left with little choice after surveying the damage done both in the area near Red Bull Arena, but also the shocking damage done to New York and the transportation system that would normally be used by fans commuting to Red Bulls games.

The tight MLS playoff schedule made pushing back the series impossible, thus leaving the league with the difficult choice of switching the home venues around.

“This is a decision that will affect everyone,” Garber said. “This will have a compettive impact on DC. We understand that.

“Our folks have reached out to ESPN. We’re going to try to utilize mass media as much as we can to get the word out as quickly as we can.”

D.C. United will have to mobilize quickly to inform fans of the change, and sell the Saturday night match to soccer fans in the D.C. area.

“We’ve begun, through a variety of digital mechanisms, we’ve begun alerting them to the change,” Payne said. “We had about 10,000 tickets to the match sold. Our hope that because its switching to a Saturday night, it won’t be too inconvenient for people.

We are launching a major public relations and advertising campaign overnight tonight,” said Payne. “We are entirely confident we will enjoy the home field advantage Saturday that we would have had on Wednesday night.”

As for the Red Bulls, Red Bull Arena avoided being damaged during Hurricane Sandy, though nearby neighborhoods were flooded.

“The water never made it to the field,” Red Bulls general manager Jerome deBontin said. “We covered the field on time and we uncovered the field yesterday. We lost power around 7 p.m. Monday. We were first told it would take 5 to 7 days to get power at the stadium. In fact we did get some power back for a few hours today.

“The stadium is in perfect shape, the roof was not affected.”


  1. look, at you NY fans can say what you want about how horrible the storm was…because it was terrible. but that has nothing to do with the game. sure, DC United is going along with it (they don’t have a choice) because they are a classy organization. but all these excuses about why people can’t get to the game or that the team couldn’t train. not. DC’s. problem. sure, sounds cold but this is the playoffs. having the second leg at home is HUGE and MLS took that from DC United.

    instead, MLS should have exhausted every other possible idea before resorting to the switch. i don’t care if NY had to play up state, or in another state. we see this ALL THE TIME in other sports. it sucks, but it is what it is.

    luckily for DCU, having a Saturday game might actually mean a better crowd. on top of that, NY getting a good crowd on a Wednesday night after everything that happened is not likely to happen. so, if i’m being real, i don’t think the competitive advantage will change much. but i think it’s ridiculous MLS made such a drastic decision without using precedent in other sports when natural disasters prevent a team from playing in their home stadium.

    • It “sounds” cold? It IS cold! You’re basically saying that you don’t give a crap about what the area is enduring, that the important thing is that your beloved team is treated fairly – with “fairness” defined as you getting your way. For goodness’ sake, if things don’t get better in the area quickly, United will probably get to host both legs – at which point hopefully you and your compadres will be able to shift focus from the minor competitive disadvantage being suffered by your team to the massive disaster suffered by NY, NJ, and CT. Get over yourself.

  2. DC United gets screwed again. Thanks Sandy. Honestly, if DC does not advance I have a sick feeling, this could negatively affect their stadium negotiations with the District of Columbia.

  3. Wow. D.C. fans, keep it in perspective, will you? Each team will still get a home game. There’s no guarantee that R.B.A. will even be available for the second leg, if the stories I’m hearing about PATH and flooding in the Harrison/Kearny area are true. Law enforcement resources are stretched thin at the moment, so their use as security for sporting events is being heavily questioned (for all sporting events – the decision to proceed with the marathon has received much criticism). The decision is obviously not optimal for United, but it’s hardly a great situation for Red Bull, either – and aren’t the other alternatives unreasonably damaging to RBNY, which after all did nothing to bring this situation on themselves, relative to merely switching the games? Some of the suggestions for alternative sites are literally ridiculous… Washington is closer to NYC than Rochester or Buffalo, and Gentschler Field is in East Hartford, roughly 2-2.5 hours away. FYI, people can’t buy gas around here right now – but it’s “fair” to make RBNY move their game to another metropolitan area with three days notice? C’mon. Again, I concede it’s not fair to D.C. – but the league made the best choice it could. Have some perspective, and some compassion, please.

    • i disagree entirely. if there is no guarantee it would be ready by Wednesday, that is even more reason to find an alternative site.

      no, NYRB did not put themselves in this situation, but DCU didn’t either!!! in fact, this is benefiting your club (from a competitive stand point) while DCU is being told by MLS they have to do this.

      the point is, you have two teams. one had something terrible happen to their city. the answer should not be to then handicapped the other city simply because there was a natural disaster. no, the answer would be to deal with a bad situation and come up with alternative site. New Orleans didn’t complain because they didn’t have a choice. sometimes life isn’t fair. it’s a harsh reality.

      again, personally, i don’t mind this move and i think it’ll give DCU a better homefield advantage on Saturday. but i disagree with the decision on principle.

      • “Sometimes life isn’t fair. it’s a harsh reality.”

        Amen. So follow your own advice and learn from the example of your players and coaches, who exhibit the kind of class DC fans posting here do not seem to comprehend.

      • That’s your response? Because I think it’s lame I’m not “classy”? DC United didn’t have a choice. Listen to Olsen’s interview this morning from DC101 and tell me his concerns about the decision are any different. As he said, at this point it is happening and he has a team to prepare. But it’s clear he didn’t like the decision.

  4. First, my sympathies to the NY and NYC area. The hurricane and storm were devastating and I hope that recovery if fast.

    Second, those who are arguing that a switch in dates is not that important are being silly about this.
    –DCU now has 2 days to sell tickets for the game.
    –If the series is tied after the second game, do the teams jet on down to DC for the tie-breaker? Nope, it gets played in RBA. So much for home field advantage. So much for the value of finishing with a better record. Effectively, what MLS is doing here is saying that despite the records, NYRB gets the benefit of finishing 2nd while DCU gets relegated to 3rd place (even worse since it gets more difficult to sell tickets on 2 days notice so home field impact is reduced).
    –I’m not arguing that the DC area was hit anywhere nearly as hard as NY/NJ but the dynamics of the storm/hurricane are different here. Water levels are still rising (b/c you’ve got melting snow…20 inch dump in parts of West Va and Western MD) and water runoff in the mountains and foothills ending up in the Potomac River. Flooding in the DC area will be WORSE on Friday than it is now. For instance, I wonder if Lot 8 (which is next to the Anacostia River) will even be accessible for a game on Saturday. No, not that it’s the same impact as what hit NJ. Only that there are consequences to DCU as well.

    There are plenty of precedents where a stadium becomes unusable and a team has to relocate or play at a neutral site. But I can’t remember an example where the other team was placed at a competitive disadvantage…effectively penalized…b/c of the stadium issues of one of the teams. And that is what has happened here.

    • my thoughts exactly. it isn’t about lacking compassion, i think we all care what happened up there. but this is the playoffs, and what we worked so hard to get (2nd place) is now useless.

      as for Lot 8, i think it’ll be fine. i was reading the flooding wouldn’t get that high (not that Lot 8 is high up, but it is a good 10 feet above the river). the low points of Alexandria and GTown are the areas that will have to worry about that.

  5. How about the Red Bulls hosting the game in CT at Rentschler Field? 40,000 capacity and great field for soccer! (If the conditions are not ready by Wednesday)

  6. All this talk of moving the game to another venue and how swapping dates is “unfair” is rubbish. First off, moving the game to a “neutral” site would put NYRB (the team and the fans) at a serious and unnecessary disadvantage. Unlike the saints situation, RBA and the transportation situation is likely to be remedied by next week. To handicap NY for something out of their control wouldn’t be right.

    Second, this is a 2 leg series. Home field advantage is overrated in a series of this sort when there is no away goal rule. Both teams should and will be playing for a resounding win in both legs. Sure if it is tied, you go to PKs. Believe me, if it comes to this, not a single player is going to care what stadium they are taking them in.

    Finally for those who feel that moving the game is unfair b/c DC needs to now sell tickets for this weekend. A. this should be easier, it is a weekend game, more fans should be available to go. B. Chicago wasn’t complaining about selling tickets their game in 3 days, DC should have no problem doing the same. Do you really think that fans won’t know about the change or show up? If so, that says a lot about your fan base. BTW, you should note that you now will have even more of a home field advantage b/c if you think that NYRB fans will be able or have the energy to travel en mass to DC at this point you really have no idea of how taxing this storm was/is on the people of NJ/NY.

    In the end, each team will get a home game which in the end is what all fans should want as it is best for the sport and the series as a whole.

    • Agree, i really dont see that big of a difference on which team gets to play home first, then again i never understood why teams play differently when they’re away from home in a 2 leg fixture. “you play to win the games” not tie.

    • “To handicap NY for something out of their control wouldn’t be right.”……..but handicapping DC for something out of their control IS right…??

    • Yep, Sandy placed the NYRB franchise at a disadvantage. So far, people have focused on issue like the power and the train. Yep, they matter. But Kevin Payne had a very relevant point. He said that he thought that at a time like this, the local police force have far more important things to do than to police a soccer stadium. And I”m not so sanguine that all of these issues (power, transportation systems, law enforcement priorities, even stuff as simple as hotels with space for the visiting team and media) will be resolved in a week. Maybe. In which case we’re back to where we originally were in the first place.

  7. I think the people and the fans of the New York red bulls are being just a little bit selfish. This wasn’t even a hurricane it was “super” storm.

  8. As a DCU supporter, I understand the circumstances but honestly I cant see why they couldn’t have moved the game to Philly or another stadium nearby.. Seems like the MLS is favoring NY, but I can understand where they’re coming from.

  9. Hopefully the two games won’t end up with an aggregate tie and the whole issue of the shift in advantage (NY now hosting the overtime if it’s needed) will be irrelevant.

  10. I personally don’t know the details of what is going on greater New York state, but to maintain the home field advantage for DCU, could they not have played the game elsewhere, such as Rochester as previously mentioned? They have a rabid fan-base there that (I would assume) would love the opportunity to host an MLS Play-Off match and (I would assume) would cheer on NYRB.

    Literally typing out-loud and trying to bring some more sensible discussion to the topic rather than the discord taken by some in this section over the switching of dates.


    • You do realize rochester is about 4 1/2 hours away from harrison. You aren’t doing anyone a favor moving the game there, no one will show up except maybe a few toronto fc fans since their team never makes the playoffs.

  11. Wow the whiny crybaby DC fanboys on here will just make it even more hilarious to me when NYRB send you home. Plus, now that the match is postponed, I can celebrate at RBA when it happens!

    • While a die-hard DCU fan, that’s a good post. With all the whining going on in this article, you’d think DC got bitch-slapped by Mother Nature instead of NY/NJ. You’re wrong…but a good post none-the-less. 🙂

    • I don’t agree with the sentiment of other DC fans. I think it was the right thing to do, but your condescending attitude is disgraceful to the Red Bulls and their fans. DC fans have a right to feel aggrieved here even in MLS made a decision that clearly benefits one team over another unfairly. If the tables were turned, don’t tell me Red Bulls fans wouldn’t feel that it was unfair.

  12. I’m writing this from the passenger seat of a car that has been sitting on line for over 2 hours waiting for gas to fill a generator (and the car.) I live in probably the least effected area of NJ, but this is the 1st time I’ve had any consistent cell/internet reception since Sandy hit. In my ample time sitting here, charging my phone, I’ve been catching up on all the pics of destruction around the state, and it’s horrifying. Even if the Path was up and running, I doubt those effected by this would be able to gather up the strength to make it to the game this weekend. I have been to every home game this season, but making it there on Saturday would’ve been really difficult. Yes, this sucks for DC. But you know what else sucks? The training time lost by the Red Bulls thanks to this storm.. The emotional impact of dealing with flooding, loss of power, etc. The atmosphere here is almost like that of post 9/11, and I can’t imagine what it’s like in places that were harder hit. Those of you who are complaining are more than welcome to hang out in my freezing cold house, drive around the devastated roads with no traffic lights with me, and try to live any type of normal life. Try experiencing this, and then say this was the wrong move.

    • It is incorrect to conflate the destruction caused by the hurricane with the decision of the league to revoke the privilege that DC United earned through superior league play. There were better options and this sets an unfortunate precedent.

      • “unfortunate precedent” is hilarious. The league and DCU doing the correct thing in the aftermath of an unprecedented disaster. Morons have come out of the woodwork.

    • Janel: The most important thing, and this needs to be absolutely clear: I am sorry you are in that situation, I’m sorry for everyone is in that situation; it’s awful, and it’s far far more important than that any of these games take place at all. I have never been through a disaster as humongous as this; but I have some sensitivity to what it means, from years spent as an EMT and separately through on-scene coordination of large emergency responses for the state I lived in and at times for the Feds. So I hope my words don’t ring completely hollow when I tell you that, in all honesty, if I could I’d wave a magic wand and abolish my team forever if it meant the damage and pain and loss caused by this storm somehow went with it. Soccer is just not that important, no matter how severely or how often the irrational excitement of a sports fan appears in the dialogue.

      The bitching and moaning about this decision, here and elsewhere, is coming from the perspective that there were several options that could have been chosen, and the League didn’t make the best choice. There was no good choice available to the League; but I’d argue they didn’t pick the one that was “least bad.”

      I hope things get better where you are as soon as they can.

  13. Another easy fix would be to play the game in another New York city… Buffalo, Rochester… If PKs were needed I hope DC would get the choice without a coin toss…

  14. The article says “MLS was left with little choice after surveying the damage done both in the area near Red Bull Arena, but also the shocking damage done to New York and the transportation system that would normally be used by fans commuting to Red Bulls games.”

    Of course, somehow magically those transportation issues and the damage to New York aren’t affecting plans for the NYC Marathon or a game at MetLife stadium the next day.

    • Nope – not “magically” unaffected, “logistically” and “factually” unaffected.

      RBA is serviced by PATH and NJT to Newark. PATH got hit worse than any other – estimated not to be up for 5-7 days. NJT Newark and beyond, the same. This is the method of transportation for the vast majority of people – a very small percentage drive.

      The marathon is literally in the middle of NYC, one of the only areas that was not hit terribly by the Hurricane and the only area that is still serviceable by transportation.

      MetLife Stadium uses NJT, but only to Secaucus, much closer than Newark. And, the Meadowlands was serviceable 100% by buses as recently as 2 years ago, prior to the trains being built. So, clearly they have some alternate routes, but even 1 day difference from Sat to Sun will make a huge, huge difference. Not to mention the logistics of the MLS asking to host a playoff game 1 day before a 1pm NFL game. It would be literally hours to switch over – something I guarantee the NFL would not even entertain.

      Please, stop with these ignorant and downright incorrect statements on the MLS having an ulterior motive, or of this game being able to be played on Saturday at RBA. The comments are just dumb.

      • 1. I thought the subway was still out in NYC, and was expected to be through the weekend; and that Manhattan south of midtown was still without power. Not true?

        2. I’ll take your word for it that folks can’t realistically be moved into/out of RBA in large numbers without PATH. To me, that seems like a compelling argument that RBA cannot be used, and therefore to have the match at some other venue. But it’s a long way from there to switching the legs of the tie around. To continue the NFL analogy, the Saints were forced to have home games in San Antonio after Katrina. But at no time was the *other team* penalized, to the Saints benefit. In this case, of the several options available, the solution the League chose was one in which the competitive position of NYRB was changed to one better than what they would have had in the absence of the storm, at the cost of their opponent.

  15. I already purchased tickets for the (originally scheduled) Wed, Nov 7th game at RFK – are they refunding these, or granting them as access to the Sunday game?

    • My understanding is that the match at RFK will be on Saturday (not Sunday as you wrote), and that Wednesday tickets will be honored at that match. Please do come — nobody else will be there, other than supporters, as now DC only has two days to market the match after spending most of a week telling the metro area that the match would be next Wednesday.

      • Right, because you guys always have a packed RFK…..nope, no you don’t. Go to the team fan board and commiserate, or just have some damn compassion. People that have that attitude like you is what makes sports a pain in the ass. Get over yourself.

    • i had tickets to Wednesday too. those tickets will work for Saturday. frankly, this is great for me personally as i can drink a lot more on Saturday than i was going to be able to drink on Wednesday!

      and i will say, i’ve seen a lot of ads already about the change. honestly, i think a saturday (forecast sunny with a high of like 55) will end up pulling more people out to the game.

  16. DC will be upset, but the league had no choice. There is no way there will be PATH service by Saturday and Wednesday is questionable as well. NY/NJ is a mess. Will be months before things are back to normal. I hope I have electric by next week.

    • No, you’re wrong. The League had several other options. Of the different options they had, they chose the one that screws DC the worst.

      • Some things are bigger than home field advantage. These are extraordinary circumstances. Why have a game when know one is willing or able to show up?

      • No one would be willing or able to show up on Saturday, when there’s a match the very next day at MetLife Stadium? Or when the NYC Marathon is still able to take place as well?

        If you want to argue that the damage immediately around, or even at, Red Bull Arena is too extensive for the match to go forward, then that’s a solid argument for not having the match at Red Bull Arena. But situations like this aren’t new. They’ve happened in other leagues; and when they have, and a venue is unavailable, the normal course of action is to change the venue of *that match*. Heck, after Katrina, New Orleans had to play their home opener at Giants Stadium!

      • And that was a colossal disaster…you recall how NO team, fans, and players felt? Trust me, there is WAYYYYYYY too much money in NFL to lose a planned Sunday game. I’m sure you know that, but I’m also sure that you are just being your namesake, so I’ll let it go.

      • You’re comparing apples and oranges. This isn’t football or a long-established marathon. This is soccer. More to the point, this is New York soccer. On the most beautiful day of the year the Red Bulls have a hard time filling their stadium. You really think there will be a ton of initiative to put their lives on hold for two hours and (somehow) travel to the RBA? I highly doubt it.

  17. Ask yourself this: If it were DC and not NY that had problems, do you think the league would give up New York’s second leg home field advantage? Or do you think we would be hearing about alternative locations to play DC’s leg?

    • It is not just public transport. Tunnels and roads are closed. Many would have no way to get to RBA and it will be only marginally better Wednesday, but they may have power by then.

      • Sounds like an excellent reason to use a different venue than RBA for the match.

        Remember where the New Orleans Saints played their home opener after Katrina?

      • His point is the venue isn’t the problem. Article says RBA is just fine. It’s the transportation system and infrastructure that are the problems (not to mention the inflexibility of the scheduling to push it back a few days and keep 2nd leg in DC). What alternate venue are you thinking of in terms of a replacement where Sandy did not have an impact in terms of both the fans and the teams getting to and from the venue? MLS, DC, and NY had little choice but to collaborate here, and this is what they worked out. Don’t discount the possibility DC got some sweeteners for being flexible and playing nice too.

    • I believe the standard practice is to use neutral-venue matches, if the home team’s normal stadium becomes unusable. When the roof of the Minnesota Vikings’ stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome collapsed due to a snowstorm, the Vikings’s game was moved to the Detroit Lions’ stadium, Ford Field. I believe the Saints also had their home game away from the N.O. after the hurricane. There were several games moved to neutral venues in Europe as well for safety reasons. I am not sure if the MLS has a precedent for switching the home and away games in the manner they did here. DCU has shown a lot of class in being gracious to one of their big rivals. The league’s decision to strip DCU of the home field advantage and leave them with virtually no time to market the tickets for the home game is a bit of a head scratcher, but DCU handled it really well.

      • DCU did not choose to do this, in fact they were publicly opposed to it. Garber basically ordered them to shut up and deal with it since NYRB is one of their prized franchises.

        It’s a joke, but it’s MLS so what do you expect.

      • I was not aware of DCU publicly opposing the switch in the games, but I certainly wouldn’t blame them if they did it. However, as the article above indicates, DCU took a high road in their public statements once Garber made his decision.

      • That game was moved to Detroit because that was the closest venue that the network had their cameras and crew.

      • So a neutral ground between NY and DC is… Philly! So they’d get a playoff game this season. Only it’ll be between their most hated rivals. Excellent!

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