Red Bull Arena issues for second leg remain

[MLS PLAYOFFS: New York-D.C. United] In a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon, New York Red Bulls general manager Jerome de Bontin said that troublesome issues remain regarding hosting a playoff game at Red Bull Arena despite a switch of home dates with D.C. United.

Instead of hosting the second leg next week as the No. 2 seed, United will stage the first game Saturday at RFK Stadium. The second game is scheduled for Wednesday at Red Bull Arena, but a power outage at the facility and transportation problems in the area around the stadium persist.

De Bontin, who was only recently named Red Bulls GM and has been staying at Red Bull Arena after moving out his hotel in hard-hit Hoboken, expects power at the stadium to be restored by Monday and until that happens the prospect of hosting the second leg remains unclear. Also up in the air is the status of the PATH train system, which brings fans from many areas, including New York City, to the stadium’s location in Harrison, N.J. De Bontin said the club is working with government and transportation authorities regarding alternative methods.

“We’ve been dealing off the generators and they aren’t enough to provide all the electricity we would need to hold a game,” De Bontin said in a statement released when the venue change was announced Wednesday afternoon.

D.C. United president Kevin Payne had stated Tuesday he would resist a swap of home dates.  During the conference call, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said a proposed use of PPL Park in Philadelphia for the Red Bulls’ home leg was rejected because of the scant preparation time. The tight playoff schedule also ruled out any postponements, so United agreed to flip the dates.

“This will have a competitive impact on DC,” said Garber. “We understand that and deeply appreciate their support. And also understand that it will impact their fans and we will try to do things to minimize that impact.”

The league will provide financial and logistical support to help United publicize the switch to RFK Stadium.

“Our club worked very hard to try to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs and we're proud that we've achieved that,” Payne said. “But there are times in which circumstances override competitive concerns, and this is clearly one of those times.

“This is not something that any of us would have liked to have foreseen, but it's something we have to be able to accommodate. I'm absolutely certain our fans will respond as they always do and we will see a great crowd at RFK Stadium on short notice on Saturday.”

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