- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 7, 2012

HARRISON, N.J. — MLS on Wednesday postponed Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls, determining continuing snow brought on by a nor’easter had made the field unplayable.

The second leg of the two-match, total-goals series now will be played Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Red Bull Arena. The teams tied the series opener 1-1 at RFK Stadium on Saturday.

Originally slated to be hosted by second-seeded United, Game 2 was relocated to Red Bull Arena when the teams last week swapped home playoff dates in hopes of giving New York more time to prepare following Superstorm Sandy.

It turned out this match simply couldn’t escape Mother Nature’s wrath. With the nor’easter passing over the East Coast, wet snow fell in Harrison all day.

By an hour before kickoff, the pitch was mostly white with just patches of green, leaving members of the grounds crew — as well as MLS commissioner Don Garber — to frantically shovel it clear.

In lieu of the standard white ball, an orange, high-visibility version was used in warmups.

“We made every attempt to play the match tonight,” said Nelson Rodriguez, the MLS executive vice president of competition, technical and game operations. “We felt there was no real solution other than to postpone.”

Citing a forecast projecting the snow to continue until after midnight, the league office made the decision after an hourlong delay.

During the holdup, United coach Ben Olsen in an interview on NBC Sports Network made it clear he felt the game should be played. New York boss Hans Backe, on the other hand, said it was an “easy decision” to postpone.

“I’m baffled,” Olsen said after the announcement. “Have you seen the field? It looks fine to me.”

Given free tickets and transportation by the league after the playoff home dates originally were swapped because of Sandy, more than 700 United fans continued to sing and chant well after the postponement was announced. In a show of appreciation, the D.C. players climbed into the stands and joined them.

Those supporters then filed back on the busses and returned to Washington. The league is hoping to again provide transportation and tickets to those fans hoping to attend Thursday’s match.

“I think we would have preferred to play tonight,” United President Kevin Payne said, “particularly given what our fans went through to get here.”

• Thomas Floyd can be reached at tfloyd@washingtontimes.com.

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