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MLS made the right call to postpone the New York Red Bulls-D.C. United match

Nov 8, 2012, 1:21 PM EDT

DC United v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

I was planning to go to Harrison, New Jersey on Wednesday night. I didn’t. You know why? Because it was a freaking miserable day outside.

The New York Red Bulls and D.C. United were supposed to play a soccer game in Harrison, New Jersey on Wednesday night. They didn’t. You know why? Because it was a freaking miserable night outside.

And you know what else? It was absolutely the correct call to postpone the playoff match until Thursday night. Yes, it inconvenienced a lot of people, including the 700 D.C. supporters who made the journey north. And it angered Ben Olsen, whose team was ready and willing. (I suspect a lot of Red Bulls were ready to go, too, even if Hans Backe wasn’t.)

And yes, watching it all unfold in realtime was kind of a trainwreck, although very compelling television in a strange way. Big props to Kyle Martino.

But moving the game to Thursday was absolutely right. The crews tried, but they couldn’t stay ahead of the storm, which reserved its heaviest period for the hour before game time.

The real question, I think, is whether MLS should have looked at the forecast and postponed the game before 9 p.m. on Wednesday night. Plenty of people seem to think they should have, but I disagree. I know there was a nor’easter predicted but trust me, after living through a number of these things, they rarely turn out as predicted. The events at Red Bull Arena were worst-case scenario. If the storm comes an hour later or an hour earlier or never comes at all — which happens more than you might think — the game goes on without interruption.

Let’s look at this from the other side: Say Don Garber checks out the weather at 4 p.m. and decides to cancel the match. The D.C. contingent — the most aggrieved party in this situation — is still on the way. Players from both teams know they won’t be playing five hours earlier, but they are still well into their pre-game routines. And then, what happens if the storm doesn’t happen to dump snow right at 8 p.m.? You have a green field, two angry teams, two mad-as-heck fanbases, and a lot of questions. Not good. Not good at all.

Last night’s events in Harrison were a bad outcome and a PR embarrassment, but it was the right call that led to them.

  1. solador78 - Nov 8, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    It would have been better if NY had made an honest effort to clear the snow. Three guys with shovels doesn’t cut it.

  2. Steve Davis - Nov 8, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    Could. Not. Agree. More.

    I don’t think most people appreciate how many moving parts there are in these things … including any preemptive decisions to postpone.

    I do question whether RBNY deciders could have been a little better prepared for snow clearing; that one falls under “contingency planning.”

    • Noah Davis - Nov 8, 2012 at 2:05 PM

      Yes to both your points: MORE SHOVELS. Maybe even like a plow or something. Although I’m not sure it would have helped since the snow kept falling and it’s not like you can shovel around a game, but it would have looked better. Counterpoint to that, though, is that any rescue equipment was, hopefully, being better used elsewhere in New Jersey.

      • The AMT - Nov 8, 2012 at 3:09 PM

        It’s really, really difficult not to come to the conclusion either that RBNY is the least prepared professional sports outfit around or that they did not make a good faith effort to clear the field last night. There were pickup truck snow plows outside the stadium yesterday (which could have been used inside); there were approximately 20 people shoveling snow with Home Depot shovels on the field when they called it off (certainly not much more than that); there were zero people shoveling the field when D.C. United fans arrived in the stadium at around 7 p.m.; we saw a grand total of zero plows or snowblowers on the field. It’s either gross incompetence or deliberate failure to provide a suitable venue, and either way, it’s no way to run an event, no matter what extenuating circumstances might exist.

        In any event, the League’s rewarding the Red Bulls for this failure leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth.

  3. charlesmwray - Nov 8, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    You’d be singing a different tune if you showed up for the match i’d reckon.

  4. term3186 - Nov 8, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    I’m a bit confused as to why the game wasn’t moved to an EARLIER time. if I recall correctly, there was several (or at least 2-3) days notice that the storm was going to hit at approximately this time. Why not have the game kickoff anywhere between 4-6?

  5. jerichowhiskey - Nov 8, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    MLS could have postponed on Tuesday not just earlier on Wednesday. Problem solved.

  6. rtfinch - Nov 8, 2012 at 2:27 PM

    Make a better effort to prepare. How do you have to have a 200 million dollar facility in a northern state hosting a team that plays into november and not have heaters under the field and a more capable way to deal with the snow? If you get the field cleared and playable, when the players start running around the snow wont have an effect on the field. I’m guessing New York wanted no part of the game, there technical players would’ve been useless in that condition and D.C. speed would’ve ended up winning.

  7. dubdiz12 - Nov 8, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    DC United only had a couple of days to prepare for a game that was supposed to be 6 days later. This whole thing is ridiculous. They definitely should have had a better snow removal plan. I know it was catastrophic, but the league had already bent over backward for them due to the hurricane. They should have played in front of the 700 DC United fans that showed up to make up for the homefield advantage DC lost.

  8. dfstell - Nov 8, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    I don’t have a dog in this hunt given that I’m not a fan of either side, but NY just looks silly here. I mean… MUST have a plan to deal with snow if you’re planning to play games outside in November in NY.

    And….it isn’t just this year. Remember what the NYRB pitch looked like last year when they played the Galaxy? It was awful.

    Why not require NYRB to have an alternate site even if it means they have to fly to another city?

    The US is just too big to come up with a good season that suits all environments. I’d rather see us break things up a little bit into regional leagues and let those regions set seasons that make sense for their climate. And then have some kinda US Champion’s League with the group stages in the spring and knockout in the fall.

    I know that’ll never happen, but it’s okay to wish for.

    • thetomi - Nov 8, 2012 at 4:49 PM

      God how nice would it be if we could have multiple strong leagues. Oh lord that would be lovely.

  9. bobinkc - Nov 8, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    I don’t know, AMT. Have you ever seen a snow remover driving a pickup-mounted plow? We use them a lot here in Kansas City and you should see the rear wheels spin. Can you imagine what even just a second or two of wheel spin on turf would do to the pitch? I don’t even want to think about it, especially after watch Houston’s pitch come totally unglued from the ground on Sunday.

  10. wyrm1 - Nov 8, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    Games are played in snow all the time. The field was fine, and Geiger was fine with playing. Basically this was a power play by Backe and Red Bull, who didn’t want the game in harsh conditions, and we learned that Red Bull has more pull than DC, which shouldn’t come as a surprise for anyone who follows the league.

    DC has been screwed over this entire series, from losing home field, to the bull story that Red Bull and MLS were paying for buses and tickets (DC United paid for the buses) to being allowed to choose when to play.

    Typical of MLS, and you really shouldn’t be defending it.

  11. jelliot1978 - Nov 8, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    What I think really needs to be looked at is wether or not Red Bull stadium has a heated field. If they do, like their media guide says, then why did appear like it was not on? If NY deliberately left it off then that is a gross display of un-sportsmanship. Backe stated that they did not have a heating system installed so either he is wrong/lied or the media guide is lying. As to clearing the field look at what the NFL does, they have trucks, snow blowers and shovels. MLS only had shovels. If they want to be considered like an upper level league then they need to act like it.

    • The AMT - Nov 9, 2012 at 2:05 PM

      It’s actually a case of both being correct. There is apparently a heating system in the ground, but it’s for aeration purposes, not intended for or capable of melting snow.

      • jelliot1978 - Nov 13, 2012 at 4:55 PM

        Thanks for the info! Guess that just means it is not state of the art like they claim.

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