HARRISON, N.J. — Mother Nature must have something against D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls.
First, the teams swapped playoff dates, switching New York’s home game from the first leg to the second to give the organization more time to prepare following Superstorm Sandy. But when Game 2 at Red Bull Arena finally arrived Wednesday, it was postponed after an hourlong delay because of snow brought on by a nor’easter storm pounding the East Coast.
The Eastern Conference semifinal second leg now will be played Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Red Bull Arena. The league hopes to again provide free tickets and transportation for United fans who want to make the trip after more than 700 traveled Wednesday.
Also, the first leg of the Eastern Conference final now will be played Sunday instead of Saturday. After ousting top-seeded Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday, the No. 5-seeded Houston Dynamo will host Game 1 against United or the Red Bulls.
My quick story on the postponement will appear in Thursday’s print edition. Here are some additional quotes:
MLS executive vice president Nelson Rodriguez:
On the weather forecast:
“The forecast changed over time, as nature changes over time. It was heavy winds and heavy wind gusts. And slowly that became a wintry mix. And slowly that became just snow. And then even on the just snow, it was, ‘It won’t stick to grass. It will be light accumulations in certain areas.’ But as you can clearly see, that wasn’t the case. And we did our best to deal with it.”
On the fans who came out:
“We have great empathy for the fans. Especially those that made the effort to come to the area today in those conditions are your greatest fans. And it was 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.”
On United wanting to play and the Red Bulls wanting a postponement:
“We respect both sides in all of those. In the end, we have to do what we think is best for the competition, best for the safety of the participants — that’s the athletes and the officials — and also being mindful of our great fans. When we put all of that into the mix, we felt there was no real solution other than to postpone.”
On whether the game could have been pushed up:
“Many of the people who work at Red Bull Arena do so on a part-time basis and have other full-time employment. The city of Harrison’s resources have been stretched as it is, many working around the clock as service providers due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy. So there was a general preference as normally scheduled, as opposed to trying to patch together a skeleton crew for an earlier start.”
United president Kevin Payne:
On the postponement:
“Look, nobody can control the weather, and the league doesn’t put these things to a vote. The league has to make a call, and they made a judgment that they thought was the right one. So we’ll come out tomorrow.”
On the team’s reaction:
“It’s not like anybody was throwing things around the room. But we were pretty emphatic that we wanted to play tonight, and a lot of the reason we wanted to play tonight was because of our fans. … We probably had more people in the building than they did.”
On the multiple schedule adjustments:
“It’s been crazy, hasn’t it? I mean, I guess it’s just New York and D.C. We always seem to have wild stuff happening, so this is just another chapter.”
On the United fans who traveled:
“I’m not sure people understand what these fans do, on a midweek game in particular. To come up here, like this, with a late game — you are talking about really two days, they are lying at work, they are making up excuses, they are begging for days off. And now we are asking them to do it again? It’s pretty tough.”
United coach Ben Olsen:
On whether he received an explanation:
“I didn’t get one, just heard the game was cancelled. It’s what it is. We’ll regroup, we’ll respond, and we’ll get back to work tomorrow. But I am baffled that we can’t play this game. It wouldn’t have been a pretty game, that’s for sure. It would’ve made the game sloppy, it would’ve been a lot of 50-50 balls, but this is what it is. The game has got to go on at some point. I think we’ve done our part and we’ve changed games, and the game is on a playable field — from my end. Maybe I’m wrong.”
On New York wanting the postponement:
“They’re not my concern. My concern is my boys wanted to play, I wanted to play, and I thought it was a playable field at this point. But it isn’t, so we’ve got to regroup and come back tomorrow and do it again.”
Red Bulls coach Hans Backe:
On the playing conditions:
“In a way, it’s just a joke. And then it’s all about luck, some individual mistakes or anything that will decided a game. Still, it’s a semifinal, a conference semifinal, and it has to be more serious.”
On what kind of game would have been played:
“With these conditions, you can’t play football on the pitch. It was peaking and kept snowing more and more. So perhaps we could have done 50 minutes and then had to stop the game and try to clear the pitch, and you can’t do it like that.”