Payne spoke this afternoon with Red Bulls General Manager Jerome de Bontin, who told him the facility in Harrison, N.J., is in good condition. They agreed to speak again as the week unfolds to determine whether the stadium would still host the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal series Saturday night between the Red Bulls and United.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” Payne said. “No one knows what the future holds. We hope the power comes back, and not just for the soccer game.”
The Red Bulls are expected to issue a formal update today.
UPDATED with Red Bulls statement:
“Our staff was continually assessing Red Bull Arena overnight and this morning and found only minor, non-structural damage to the facility. In addition, the pitch was fully covered and did not experience flooding. We want to thank our stadium operations and security staff for their tremendous job in preparing for Hurricane Sandy. Our club is currently in communication with local officials, authorities and Major League Soccer and evaluating our options for Saturday’s playoff game against D.C. United. We hope to provide further information soon.”
The clubs plan to discuss the issue with MLS officials, but because of the hurricane’s impact in New York, where the league headquarters are based and many officials reside, communication is difficult at the moment.
Asked if United would offer to host the first leg at RFK Stadium and play at New York next Wednesday, Payne said: “We haven’t discussed scenarios, but I wouldn’t support that.”
As the No. 2 seed in the East, United earned the right to play at home in the second leg, which, if the total-goals series is tied after 180 minutes, would proceed immediately to 30 minutes of extra time and possibly penalty kicks.
Meantime, United Coach Ben Olsen cancelled practice today and plans to resume workouts Wednesday. The club has yet to survey the condition of the training grounds near RFK Stadium. If the grass field is too wet, United would probably train at Long Bridge Park, an artificial turf facility in Arlington.
“Would I rather have trained today? Yeah,” Olsen said. “But at this point in the season, an extra day off won’t affect us. A break is good for the guys.”
In other news…..
*Midfielder-forward Chris Pontius was voted the club’s MVP and center back Brandon McDonald was named defender of the year. Midfielder Marcelo Saragosa won the coaches’ award and midfielder Stephen King was named the team’s humanitarian of the year.
*NBC Sports Network will show both legs of the United-Red Bulls series.
*Asked via text message if he is now spoiled after winning two World Series titles in three years as a San Francisco Giants investor, DCU’s Will Chang told me: “No, not until I can get an MLS Cup too!”