For the fourth time in less than two years, D.C. United will have to travel on the same day as an upcoming match because of weather issues.
Following two cancellations Friday, the team is tentatively scheduled to fly to Orlando on Saturday morning ahead of the season opener at 7:30 p.m.
United’s original plan Friday was to practice in the morning, then head to Reagan National Airport for a commercial flight. But with a massive wind storm on the way, American Airlines on Thursday evening canceled it. MLS arranged for most of the delegation to fly on a charter from Dulles, but with gusts reaching 71 mph, the small jet was prevented from landing there.
The players had gathered at team headquarters at RFK Stadium early Friday for what they thought would be van rides to the airport, but when the charter was scratched, Coach Ben Olsen conducted a light workout. While they practiced, the support staff scrambled to find alternative flights. But with the airlines trying to accommodate passengers affected by cancellations throughout the Northeast and charter companies swamped with requests, the soccer team was out of luck. So the players were sent home.
With the storm in the forecast, the organization had attempted to change plans early Thursday.
“We had been keeping an eye on the storm as it was developing and then plans were immediately put into action early [Thursday] morning once it really materialized to try to find alternative solutions,” United spokeswoman Lindsay Simpson said.
Unable to do so, the club held out hope the original flight or the subsequent charter would remain on schedule. Neither did.
United is tentatively scheduled to charter to Orlando around 10 a.m. Saturday. Because of the jet’s size, the entire delegation probably will not be able to travel together.
In 2016, United’s flight to Kansas City was diverted to Chicago because of several thunderstorms the day before the match. A charter was put to use the next day, and to provide time for the visitors to catch their breath, kickoff was pushed back. United won, 1-0, on a late goal.
Last July 1, weather forced cancellation of a commercial flight from Reagan National to Montreal. United took a charter the next day and promptly lost to the Impact, 2-0. Four weeks later, D.C. went through it again for a game at Minnesota and lost, 4-0.
For parity purposes, MLS permits teams to take only four charters per season. There are exceptions for last-minute cancellations, in which the league covers the cost.
Some team investors would be more than willing to pay to charter to all matches, but because others are reluctant, the league has kept the travel rule. Weather affects both commercial and charter flights, but there is greater flexibility with charters and less airport hassle for players and staff.
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