The weather outside was frightful, but the MLS’ prolonged decision to postpone the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals was far from delightful.
As if Hurricane Sandy, own goals and Andy Najar’s petulance was not enough, one of MLS’ oldest rivalries was subjected to a nor’easter that blanketed the $250 million fortress in Harrison, New Jersey with heavy winds and snow.
All hands were on deck shoveling mother nature’s elements, including those of MLS commissioner Don Garber, yet they still failed to produce a suitable and safe environment to host the significant match.
Every possible measure was taken by the league—even the majestic orange ball was resuscitated in order to increase visibility during the storm.
In the end, MLS decided it was best to postpone the match until this evening. It was not a decision supported by players and members of both organizations, but no one was more visibly upset than DC United head coach Ben Olsen.
“Have you seen the field? It looks fine to me,” Olsen said. “I’m baffled that we can’t play this game.” (via MLSSoccer.com)
Ironically enough, Swedish head coach Hans Backe did not share the same sentiment.
“It’s an easy decision. It should be postponed.” he told Martino. “For me it would have been an easy decision because this is not football. This is another kind of sport" (via MLSSoccer.com)
Conspiracy theorists will claim this was just another attempt to ensure New York’s advancement in the postseason.
With big-name talent like Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Rafa Márquez, surely this is just a ploy to increase market dollars for an under-appreciated league; however, anyone removing its own blind allegiance can appreciate the big picture.
Last night’s match was a nationally-televised event.
With two matches already played on top of NFL-style football lines, a nearly-empty stadium in the middle of a snowstorm is not the message MLS wants to send to the general public.
This is not 1996. This is not a newly formed league. Calculated and unrelenting measures have been taken in order to increase the popularity of MLS, not only in the American sports environment, but worldwide.
Both teams play a beautiful style of soccer. Subjecting the skills of world-class talents like Henry and Chris Pontius to such unforgiving conditions in an empty stadium is a detriment to the league.
MLS must ensure its increased growth in the American sports market, and to treat the American public to a soccer snow fight on national television is a counter-productive strategy.
With moderate conditions expected for this evening, and an additional 24 hours for the crew at Red Bull Arena to create acceptable playing conditions, the MLS will finally be able to move past this series.
Those who valiantly sat through last night’s elements may feel they were swindled out of an opportunity of witnessing a winter wonderland exhibition of soccer, but they must look past themselves.
The vision and direction of MLS is greater than your pristine level of dedication and passion.
Playing the match in suitable conditions increases the opportunity of multiplying an already devoted and staunch fanbase. This decision will ultimately benefit us all.
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