MLS Commissioner Don Garber said Wednesday evening that the decision to switch home dates of the Eastern Conference semifinal between D.C. United and New York Red Bulls was "the best solution" after Hurricane Sandy battered the New York metropolitan area, including the area around Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.
Speaking on a conference call, Garber said that the clubs first spoke Tuesday evening about contingency plans in the wake of the storm, and finalized the new arrangement earlier Wednesday. Garber, who called the decision "much bigger than the sport of soccer," said that the clubs had discussed playing the first leg at PPL Park in Philadelphia, but could not finalize arrangements in time.
The lower-seeded Red Bulls had been scheduled to host higher-seeded United Saturday night for the first leg of the two-legged tie. However, Sandy knocked out power to both Red Bull Arena (forcing the club's offices to close) and the surrounding area, and affected service on the PATH train lines that most of the club's fans take to the Arena from Manhattan.
In a statement released Tuesday, RBNY said that the damage to the Arena was "minor, non-structural" and noted that the pitch was covered and did not flood. New York General Manager Jerome de Bontin said Wednesday that the Arena "would be in order" to host the second leg in a week's time.
Both clubs returned to training Wednesday for the first time since the storm. United coach Ben Olsen told The Washington Post's Steven Goff that he was fine with the switch, saying "this seemed to be the simplest solution."