Final thoughts, for now
I think that was the right decision, but I'd heard first hand from several people making fairly epic journeys to the game today - some from areas badly damaged by Sandy, who were hoping for some relief from a very tough week. It's tough on them to trek back.
Some emails arriving in the wake of that decision:
"Driving down from the Catskills was impossible. But whats the problem. I loved playing in snow. We merely changed the tactics. Its a lottery, and a lot more fun. Footies used to be played in all conditions. That proved how good you were. They are professionals so should adjust. Studs a problem, we changed them to bigger ones. And we were not allowed to wear gloves."
That's from wthompson003
I think it actually does exactly the opposite of prove "how good" you are - it does make for a lottery, and it's no way to settle a game like this.
"mls needs to bring SOMEONE out to explain this to disgruntled dc fans - or at least resked the game for Saturday at RFK"
Nelson Rodriguez said that with the snow continuing to fall until the early hours of this morning, it was becoming fairly clear that the areas being cleared were being re-covered as fast as the ground staff could move it. It is very hard on the DC fans who've traveled up, but clearly every attempt was made to play the game tonight and the overall circumstances have been pretty extraordinary.
OK - thanks for your tweets and emails. Hope you'll join me again tomorrow night when we try again. For now, keep warm enjoy Sporting KC v Houston with Steve, and I'll be back in a bit with San Jose v LA...
Nelson Rodriguez just confirmed the game is cancelled and will be replayed at 7.30pm tomorrow night.
Steve Busfield is following Sporting Kansas City vs Houston Dynamo here
Arlo White just alluded to the Proustian rush he will get if the game is played with an orange ball, such as those he remember from his childhood. Only he didn't say "Proustian rush". Clearly he knows his demographic a lot better than I do.
Another tweet from someone who may well be inside...
The lines are being cleared now, but Kyle Martino, for NBC, is talking about the conditions being OK out wide, but very poor in the center of the field, where the snow is filling in again within minutes of being cleared.
A nice chat between foes...
In the tunnel, Henry and DeRo were just shaking their heads in the manner of men who have seen some terrible things. Now Olsen arrives on the scene and there's a big hug for Henry, who he coached in this year's All Star game.
An email from Adam Large:
"I think these interviews with Hans Backe and Ben Olsen tell you everything you need to know about the personalities of the managers and, to a certain degree, their teams. Honestly though, is playing in this any more unsafe for players than some of the heavy rains we've seen matches played in?"
I know what you mean Adam, but to be honest this is just ridiculous.
Ground staff still shoveling snow off the field...
Nelson Rodriguez being interviewed
He's saying that we're close to a decision but that the snow is coming down faster than they get get it off. He's also saying "we have to honor that possibility" when being asked if the game could be called off having started.
I interviewed Rodriguez recently - he describes his job as running "everything inside the lines" ie all matters, including adverse weather decisions, pertaining to game play.
DJ has a sense of humor and is playing "Winter Wonderland"...
Coach Backe speaks
Hans Backe is being interviewed and thinks "It's an easy decision - it should be postponed...This is not football - it's another kind of sport."
He's worried about injuries, sightlines and thinks that this is "only about luck now, if you play this game.'
He has communicated this to the league officials apparently.
I can see MLS Commissioner Don Garber and what looks like Head of competition Nelson Rodriguez, out on the field in consultation with each other - the snow is still falling, but the league bigwigs look like they're heavily involved in whatever call gets made here.
The penalty areas are being cleared right now - but this is wet, slushy snow and it's continuing to fall.
@kidweil Worry about the DC United stand-in full-backs. Cooper could have a field day pulling onto them for long diagonals.— Alex Richards (@AA_Richards) November 8, 2012
Alex clearly has a lot more faith in the possibility of tactics playing a part in this one than I do.
Ben Olsen being interviewed now and claiming DC want to play - and that the field is soft underneath the snow, and "safe". He's saying that once the first layer of snow is removed we should have a decision on the game "in about 15 minutes".
Some players love the playoffs. LA’s Mike Magee seems to thrive as the attacker opposing scouts forget to prepare for, only to find him scoring vital goals against them come the knockout rounds.
On the other hand there are players for whom it somehow all goes wrong at this time of year. Case in point might be New York’s Roy Miller. In 2010 he saved his worst performance of the year for the second leg of his team’s conference semi-final loss against San Jose Earthquakes - in a year where, having won the East in their then brand new stadium, the path to MLS Cup was opening up in front of the Red Bulls.
Last year, with New York still holding the Galaxy to a single goal lead in their Western Conference (don’t ask...) semi-final, Miller gave away a needless penalty to give the Galaxy the two goal cushion that saw them through. And on Saturday night, there was Miller again, to knock home a brilliant finish past his own keeper to give DC United the lead. In the latest incident Miller was unlucky to be forced to attempt the clearance after a brilliant cross and attention from DeLeon put him on the spot, but for some New York fans the sight of the erstwhile left back showing up in that spot, was a rather ominous omen.
New York: Robles; Lade, Holgersson, Marquez, Pearce; Lindpere, Tainio, Cahill, McCarty; Cooper, Henry
DC United: Hamid; Russell, McDonald, Jakovic, Neal; DeLeon, Saragosa, Kitchen, Boskovic, Pontius; Pajoy
Korb, who had the shot that tested Robles early for DC, outinjured, so new look full backs for DC, with Najar out. Marquez gets the start for the hosts - as does Cooper.
@kidweil got ur hot water bottle out there Graham? Could b a classic— Ber Murphy (@BerMurphy) November 8, 2012
If by "classic" you mean long ball war of attrition/cartilage, you may be right, Ber.
Dwayne DeRosario was rumored to make a surprise comeback to the DC bench tonight, but it would plainly be insane to bring him back into conditions like this, even if he were fit.
It's plainly insane to play the players who are fit.
The word is that if the conditions were to cause the game to be abandoned it would be resumed tomorrow from the same stage.
Setting the scene
Looking at scenes of the warm up, I have to say that the conditions look absolutely farcical. It looks like a full blizzard, snow's lying all over the field and the players are squinting through the mess trying to find each other. If nothing else it looks downright dangerous to play in circumstances like this. But don't worry - kickoff has been put back 8 minutes and we're playing with an orange ball...
The link in this tweet doesn't quite do the scene justice...
Unsurprisingly, the stadium looks pretty empty - though that big DC contingent is here.
As part of the conditions under which DC agreed to the switch in the order of the games DC will have a much larger contingent of fans than usual present tonight - some 700 fans are in attendance. Nine coaches have made their way up the I-95 - ironically they may have had a more straightforward route to the game than many of New York’s fan base. In the wake of the superstorm that devastated parts of New Jersey, the transport infrastructure is still under a great deal of strain - the principal mass transit route to the stadium from New York, the PATH train, is out of action for the forseeable future, and the ongoing gas shortages may make others think twice about driving tonight. Ticket sales have been understandably slow, and there is every possibility that a home crowd atmosphere may not materialize tonight.
What has materialized (and if the sight outside my window is any indication, continues to materialize hard...) is yet another big storm, that is supposedly peaking around game time. Both sets of coaching staff were unsure whether the game could be completed under such conditions. Let’s see. What will be very interesting is what sort of attendance we get for tonight’s game.
The loss of Najar was a frustrating one for DC. The recently converted full back had been jokingly referred to as “Cafu” earlier this season, by his DC team mates, after taking to his new position like a duck to water. Against New York, for the first hour, he showed all his old winger’s instincts to get forward repeatedly - interacting well with the impressive rookie Nick De Leon - whose movement off the ball pulled open all sorts of space for Najar to run into. Najar’s moment of petulance (the intention when he threw the ball that hit the referee is irrelevant - he should never have given the referee a decision to make) may cost his side’s attacking movement dear down that right flank - which could be crucial if New York end up reshuffling their pack on that side.
On the other flank, Chris Pontius will need to pick up where he left off - the player gave New York’s rookie Connor Lade, hugely impressive this year, a torrid time the other night and remains DC’s best attacking hope, even having missed his penalty the other night. Boskovic too, has been hit and miss this season for DC, but has been better down the stretch and could be key - but really DC’s hopes depend on Pontius having a good game and De Leon showing he can wrest the initiative on the other side.
New York Red Bulls
All eyes will be on who Coach Hans Backe picks as his front pairing tonight, after he benched last week’s MLS player of the week Kenny Cooper in favour of Le Toux, ostensibly for the latter’s speed and willingness to track back - qualities which have been rather more alleged than proven in his time at New York. Henry is obviously a lock (and gave the impression towards the end of the tie in DC that he was saving himself for tonight’s home leg), but while the coach has said Cooper will be back tonight, he and the influential Henry have been publicly ambivalent all season about what the 18-goal striker brings to the team, as we noted last week.
Another figure who has caused a certain amount of ambivalence is Rafael Marquez - with a lot of the ambivalence residing with the New York fans, who in the first leg once again saw the designated player limp out of the action at half time - supposedly as a precautionary measure for some calf tightness. Marquez had been playing in the heart of a defense that hadn’t conceded in their previous two games, or to that point in the DC match - but his departure seemed to follow the pattern of his time at New York, of another comeback gathering momentum only to veer off the rails. Marquez didn’t train yesterday, but is apparently expected to start.
A busy night
So we have a busy night of playoff action tonight. You can follow Sporting KC's attempt to recover from a 2-0 deficit against Houston with Steve Busfield shortly, and later on tonight I'll be clearing the snow off my keyboard and trying to bring you San Jose Earthquakes vs LA Galaxy.
A very busy night...
I don't set the events - I just respond to them helplessly, Tammy.
You know, I think we have a pretty good way to set the scene right here...
For those of you who can’t play video on whatever device you’re following on, the clip above would have showed you DC United hosting New York Red Bulls in the first leg of their conference semi-final on Saturday night. You’d have seen DC United test Luis Robles in the New York goal early, with a second minute drive. You’d have seen New York’s young defender Connor Lade earning an early booking and giving up a first half penalty. You’d have seen Robles save said penalty from the otherwise impressive Chris Pontius. You’d have seen New York open the scoring on behalf of DC United, with an own goal by substitute Roy Miller. Then you’d have seen DC United equalize on behalf of New York, as goalkeeper Bill Hamid carried the ball over his own line. You’d also have seen DC’s Andy Najar, a constant menace on the overlap from the right back position, ruin a great night by getting sent off for throwing the ball at the referee, seconds after being booked.
You’d have seen a lot, in other words. And if you're wondering why I'm using a weird tense it's because last week's superstorm has knocked the planned sequence for these games out of their natural order, and tonight's second leg is being hosted by the lower seed New York. The sides are coming into tonight’s game with the score at 1-1 - effectively making this a one off knockout game, with the possibility of extra time and penalties if the scores are level at the end of ninety minutes. This should obviously favour the home side, though the lingering effects of the storm, and a brand new one unfolding right now, may yet affect the outcome.
Anyway, have a watch of that video to set the scene, and/or read how we saw it here at the Guardian, have a look at what we learnt from all the first leg fixtures and tweet your thoughts about tonight’s game to @KidWeil or do the same with more adjectives to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be back soon with more build up and team news.