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Sandy solution: New York, D.C. United switch home dates

Oct 31, 2012, 5:54 PM EDT

Columbus Crew v D.C. United Getty Images

In what president Kevin Payne described as “extraordinary circumstances,” D.C. United has lost home field advantage. Unfortunately, there weren’t very many alternatives for Major League Soccer, who this afternoon decided to swap the hosting assignments or United’s Eastern Conference semifinal against New York Red Bulls.

D.C. United, originally scheduled to host Wednesday’s second leg, are now home for Saturday’s series opener (8 p.m. Eastern, NBC Sports Network). New York gets the second leg next Wednesday, potentially benefitting from 30 minutes of extra time at home, should the teams finish even after the matchup’s first 180 minutes.

“This was a tough decision, but one that was much bigger than soccer,” league commissioner Don Garber said.

Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, Red Bull Arena is without power. Though the team is able to restore minimum functionality with the aid of generators, that functionality is insufficient to host a playoff game.

With the City of Harrison unable to determine exactly when full power would be restored, MLS has made the switch.

“I’m OK with it,” D.C. head coach Ben Olsen told The Washington Post. “There are real issues in New York and New Jersey. People are suffering. This seemed to be the simplest solution.”

The simplest and perhaps only viable solution.

PPL Park in Philadelphia was considered, according to Garber, but that was a no go. Something like that couldn’t be thrown together on short notice, and instead of merely switching the order of matches, the solution would deprive New York (and their fans) of a game.

Rightfully, there’s been a lot of concern about D.C. losing their earned home-field advantage, having finished one spot above New York in the East. But in the face of tight schedules and television windows, nobody had a better solution. With each day that passed, “wait and see” become more problematic.

It also shouldn’t be assumed that the first leg at home is an inherent disadvantage. In some circumstances, it can turn into a benefit.

Last season, Western Conference third seed Real Salt Lake blitzed Seattle in their semifinal’s home leg, taking a 3-0 lead out of Rio Tinto. Playing the first leg at home gives D.C. United a similar opportunity to take early control of the matchup.

  1. wyrm1 - Oct 31, 2012 at 8:03 PM

    This is a f**king joke. If they cannot play in Harrison, which I don’t believe for a second, given that there is going to be a marathon and football game the next day, then they should either put the game at a neutral site or play them both at RFK.

    DC United worked their butts off to get the second seed so that they could have home field advantage for this leg, and that is now gone because MLS wants to give Red Bull every possible advantage. Why bother giving home field advantage if you are just going to take it away.

    There are lots of options that do not involve screwing the higher seeded team (neutral field, delay the games a couple of days, both games at RFK, or even a one game playoff). If it were DC that were effected, you can be sure that MLS main office wouldn’t switch the games the other way, but since it is their precious NY franchise, we see United get the shaft.

  2. footballer4ever - Oct 31, 2012 at 10:30 PM

    I can understand DC United fans might not be that pleased about this circumstance, but for God’s sake! A natural disaster hit NY area and even if there was restored, sports is not a priority right now. Common sense prevails and this decision is the most appropiate for the league, fans and the sport. Either way, if DCU is meant to move on to next round, it should not make a difference where you play first or last game.

  3. timkvfp - Oct 31, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    @worm1 – Dude, seriously?

    Switch to Sanka and relax; there are plenty of other conspiracy theories to chase around that don’t involve moving a soccer game because of a natural disaster and loss of life.

    • novisaddude - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:19 AM

      Instead of being condescending why don’t you start thinking rationally and stop confusing problems bestowed upon the area by the hurricane with business decisions made by the corporation called MLS. It is extremely sad that MLS is willing to compromise the integrity of their own system because they are not willing to pay the penalties over the TV deals which would incur if there were to be delays. If the area is affected, fine, by all means help the people. But if the people really come first, as they are claiming, then why don’t they delay the round for a week and preserve the integrity of the regular season. Or, find a neutral venue and help the fans get there. You know, help the people. May as well hold the raffle at the end of the regular season to determine playoff seeding.

  4. wyrm1 - Nov 1, 2012 at 6:50 AM

    If there are things more important than sports (which I agree with, I have family in Northern NJ, thankfully they are fine) then the game should be moved, which is what every other league does in similar circumstances. That said, NY is managing to run a 40,000 person marathon and having a professional football game 12 hours after this game is scheduled. In neither case does anyone seem to care about the tragedy.

    This was pretty much the only possible solution that hurt the team with home field advantage. As I said before, if the situations were reversed Garber would tell DC (or Columbus, or Philly) to find a neutral site to play at long before he agreed to change the order of the games.

    • joeyt360 - Nov 1, 2012 at 4:23 PM

      • wyrm1 - Nov 1, 2012 at 5:14 PM

        And I could link if I weren’t on my cruddy phone, to stories about how 20000 runners are going to be able to run a marathon, and 75000 are going to a pointyball game on Sunday.

      • joeyt360 - Nov 2, 2012 at 6:04 PM

        It wouldn’t matter, since it’s pretty obvious which one’s more comparable.

  5. footballer4ever - Nov 3, 2012 at 6:02 PM

    So much for whinning about the NY marathon and not the MLS, the marathon was porperly cancelled afterwards. Are you “satisfied” already?

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