HARRISON, NJ. — Playoff soccer is anything but predictable. In the case of D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls, the actual times, dates, and locations have also been up for grabs, thanks to the weather.
The second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals between Atlantic Cup Rivals D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls was postponed on Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena due to a snow storm in the northeast.
Second-seeded United will get their second chance in as many days to advance to the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday night when they take on the Red Bulls at 7:30 PM. The series is currently even after both teams traded own goals in a 1-1 draw last Saturday night at RFK Stadium.
“I guess it’s just New York and D.C.,” said United President Kevin Payne after watching his team go back into the locker room for the final time of the night.
“We always seem to have wild stuff happen. This is just another chapter.”
Originally, D.C United were scheduled to host tonight’s game – by virtue of being the higher seeded team – before weather complications from Superstorm Sandy forced Major League Soccer officials to swap locations.
New York officials removed a preventive tarp from the field around 6 PM, with kickoff being set for 8:20 PM. Crews of front office members from both teams then proceeded to shovel the field until the final announcement at just after 9 PM.
The official decision was released by Major League Soccer’s Executive Vice President of Competition, Nelson Rodriguez.
“We decided to make the effort to play, we felt we owed to everybody to see that effort through,” said Rodriquez.
“In the end we did not feel that we could get the field into a safe or playable enough condition, therefore that caused the postpone.”
Fitting for two rivals that never agree to anything on the field, United and Red Bulls had very different views as to whether the field was playable on Wednesday night.
“I’m baffled,” United Head Coach Ben Olsen said as he addressed the media.
“Have you seen the field? The field looks fine to me.”
Olsen’s frustrations are hard to argue with after already cooperating with both MLS and New York in switching the first two games despite finishing above their rivals in the standings.
“The game has to go on at some point,” Olsen said.
“I think we’ve done our part, we’ve changed games, and the game is on a playable field – from my end.”
On the other side of the aisle, it was clear from much earlier in the night that Red Bulls Head Coach Hans Backe had little to no interest in getting into a likely ugly affair on a less than perfect field.
“You can’t see the lines, it’s not playing [soccer] in these conditions,” Backe said.
Backe also stressed the importance of playing a conference semifinal game in better conditions, allowing the skill of the players to determine the outcome.
“In a way it’s just a joke,” Backe explained.
“And then it’s all about luck, some individual mistakes or anything that will decide a game. It’s a semifinal and it has to be more serious.”
Notes: After switching the first two games, United offered free bus trips and tickets to any fans willing to make the trip. An estimated eleven buses, with approximately 700 fans, took the team up on that offer. United players came back out of the locker room one final time and ran across to the field to thank the supporters…Should United advance to the Conference finals, the first leg would be played at Houston on Sunday November 11.