The weather simply will not cooperate with D.C. United, New York and the people of New Jersey.
A significant storm is set to make landfall in the state mere hours before the Red Bulls are scheduled to host United in the second leg of a series already influenced by Sandy.
This nor'easter will not pack the devastating punch Sandy did, but it will further complicate recovery efforts in the New York metropolitan area and perhaps place the status of the second leg in some doubt. A heavy mixture of rain, snow and wind (with gusts likely to approach 50 miles per hour) is expected to sweep through the area by game time, according to the Weather Channel.
Despite the predictions of foul weather and the potential infrastructure impairments that would accompany any significant amount of precipitation and wind, the game remained as scheduled through Tuesday evening. If and when the conditions prompt questions regarding the viability playing the game, then the decision would be taken as it would during a regular-season match: club and league executives would discuss the matter with match officials and reach a decision based on the safety of the players and the supporters slated to attend.
It is a decision fraught with complications based on the compressed postseason fixture list. No room for alteration exists to move the match and retain the current schedule (the Eastern Conference semifinal is set to start on Saturday, for instance). It is far easier to play this match tonight – even in less than favorable conditions and in front of a potentially sparse gathering at Red Bull Arena – than to try to find a new slot for the game later in the week and shuffle the schedule accordingly. Even with those facts in play, it simply may not be possible to maintain the status quo so if nature intervenes.
The conditions in Harrison tonight will dictate whether this match progresses as scheduled or whether this storm sends league executives scrambling to find an alternative solution. For now, it is back to the forecasts and back to wondering how and if the conditions will affect this series yet again.
PREVIEWING THE SECOND LEGS
D.C. United @ New York (Wednesday, 8:00p.m., NBC Sports Network – Series tied 1-1 on aggregate): Poor conditions may actually favor the visitors here after United coach Ben Olsen molded his side into a combative outfit over the past few weeks. Olsen's conservative approach may yield some dividends here, though he will have to find a replacement for the suspended Andy Najar at right back (Robbie Russell and Daniel Woolard [with Chris Korb switching back to the right side] offer the most likely choices) to maintain it. New York must prove that it possesses the necessary gumption for a gritty, nasty affair in order to secure its spot in the Eastern Conference final. It will also need a decent performance from the left back of Hans Backe's painful choice (Wilman Conde or Roy Miller) if Rafa Márquez (right calf tightness) isn't fit enough to feature.
Houston @ Sporting Kansas City (Wednesday, 8:30p.m., MLSsoccer.com – Houston leads 2-0 on aggregate): Sporting enters this match with selection headaches in midfield and production headaches in front of goal. Regular starters Júlio César (right quad strain) and Paulo Nagamura (left ankle sprain) may not start due to lingering knocks. Their absence likely creates a vacancy in midfield from the defeat in Houston on Sunday. Sporting boss Peter Vermes will tip his hand about the deportment of his side with his choice, if he has to make one: Lawrence Olum would add a bit of steel, while Peterson Joseph would signify a turn toward more creativity. Sporting will need both qualities – and perhaps an early goal to bolster the confidence of a side that has scored more than twice just three times this season – to overturn its deficit against a Houston side that may face some issues holding onto its lead if Jermaine Taylor (left knee sprain) isn't healthy enough to play.
Los Angeles @ San Jose (Wednesday, 11:00p.m., ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, TSN 2, RDS 2 – San Jose leads 1-0 on aggregate): Galaxy coach Bruce Arena must send his players out with a few words of caution. This tie can turn far, far worse if the Earthquakes pick up an early goal because the Galaxy pushed forward too earnestly at the outset. There will be opportunities in this match for the visitors to restore parity in the series, but they must arrive in due course. As for the Earthquakes, they must avoid complacency (not usually a problem for this group) and sidestep that tendency to concede first to see out this tie. One thing is certain: any scenario remains on a table between two teams that have historically offered up compelling fare in these sorts of playoff situations.
Seattle @ Real Salt Lake (Thursday, 10:00p.m., NBC Sports Network – Series tied 0-0 on aggregate): The health of Mauro Rosales' hamstring will determine the type of challenge Seattle can mount at Rio Tinto Stadium. Rosales – even more so than the recovering Eddie Johnson (likely to return after missing the first leg) – is the fulcrum for what Sounders FC wants to do in the attacking third. If he isn't able to start or he isn't able to muster up an influential display, then Seattle will struggle to break down a RSL defense that should have Jamison Olave back in the starting XI. RSL must still find a way to score (and that isn't certain), but it will feel far better about its chances if Rosales isn't on top form.
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