Red Bulls game postponed until Thursday night
HARRISON, N.J. -- A steady snowfall produced by Wednesday night's nor'easter forced the postponement of the Red Bulls playoff game against D.C. United at Red Bull Arena. The second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinal series will be played at 7:30 Thursday night.
"We took the most prudent decision," said Nelson Rodriguez, executive vice president of competition for the MLS.
Before the scheduled 8:21 p.m. kickoff, several dozen people, including MLS president Mark Abbott, shoveled snow off the field. But as quickly as they removed it, more snow replaced it. After consulting with both teams, Rodriguez postponed the game at 9 p.m.
"Unfortunately, nature has a funny way of playing tricks on people," Rodriguez said. "We just couldn't keep up with it."
Rodriguez said the league did not postpone the match earlier because of weather forecasts that did not predict as much snow.
"At no time was it clear there would be so much snow and having come so quickly," he said. "When we decided to make an effort to play, we felt we owed it to everybody to see that effort through. . . . [But] we did not feel the field was in safe or playable enough condition."
The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the 40s today.
An estimated 2,000 fans managed to get to the stadium, including 700 United fans who were bussed in.
"Those who made an effort to come to this arena today in these conditions are your greatest fans," Rodriguez said. "It is with them in mind that we made every attempt to play the match tonight. Had it not been for them it would have been a far easier and far earlier call to make."
The coaches had differing views on whether the game should have been played.
"It wasn't a surprise," Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said. "In my opinion, it was a very easy decision to postpone the game. You can't see the lines. It's not football playing in these conditions."
He said there was a "risk for the health of the players, picking up injuries. It's a different sport. You can't do it."
Had the game been played, "then it's just a joke," Backe said. "Then it's all about luck, some individual mistakes that will decide the game. It's a conference semifinal. It has to be more serious."
United coach Ben Olsen wanted the show to go on. "I'm baffled [because] have you seen the field?"
He said that it "looks fine to me."