MLS's biggest failure in wake of Hurricane Sandy was one of proper preparation

Mike Stobe

Swapping the home dates of D.C. United-New York Red Bulls was not the worst solution, but proper planning would have given the league more options.

The decision to swap the home dates for the D.C. United-New York Red Bulls Eastern Conference semifinals was understandable. Hurricane Sandy had rendered Red Bull Arena unfit to host in time for Saturday's playoff game and moving the first leg to RFK Stadium should not have much impact on the soccer side. I'm perfectly willing to believe that there were no better solutions, given the fact that planning for this didn't start until Tuesday.

The problem is that planning for this possibility waited until Tuesday.

It's fair to say that league and team officials were caught off guard by the extent of damage Sandy waged on Red Bull Arena. But let's not allow ourselves to pretend like this was some kind of out-of-the-blue disaster that no one saw coming.

Every forecaster in the country was telling us for at least a week that Sandy was going to wreak havoc on the New York City area. It had almost become comical, in fact, the way the news was going on about the Biblical proportions of this storm. Surely, it occurred to someone at MLS headquarters that the possibility at least existed of Red Bull Arena being rendered unusable.

There's no reason I can see why MLS wasn't planning for this eventuality days before the storm hit.

Maybe the first leg gets moved somewhere else in the New York area. Maybe the entire Eastern Conference playoffs get moved back a few days. Maybe the solutions would have been the same, but it's not hard to imagine other options being floated if there was more time to consider it.

Instead, it appears all parties involved were more inclined to cross their fingers and hope everything worked out. The solution they came up with is imperfect, but not entirely unreasonable. Whether a team hosts the first or second leg is not in and of itself much of a homefield advantage. But this solution did leave the league open for criticism, not the least of which was a failure to imagine the worst.

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