United, Red Bulls to play 1st leg in D.C.

D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls will play the first leg of their two-game MLS playoff series Saturday night at RFK Stadium in Washington instead of Red Bull Arena because of Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the New York area.

The second match will take place Wednesday at the Harrison, N.J., venue, which lost power in the storm and might not be operational this weekend. Disruption to public transportation and the drain on security and logistical resources were also factors.

MLS discussed the issue with representatives from both clubs before reaching a decision.

“Obviously, these are extraordinary circumstances,” said United President Kevin Payne.

United, the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, was reluctant to relinquish hosting the second game, a position it earned by finishing one point ahead of the third-seeded Red Bulls during the regular season.

The conference semifinals and finals are modeled after traditional knockout competitions around the world: Each team plays one game at home in a series decided by total goals. The team that hosts the second match holds the advantage, should a 30-minute overtime and penalty kick tiebreaker need to determine the winner.

“I’m okay with it,” United Coach Ben Olsen said. “There are real issues in New York and New Jersey. People are suffering. This seems to be the simplest solution.”

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