The decision should have been made days ago. But it wasn’t.
A contingency plan should have been in place a week ago. But it wasn’t.
And now, Thursday, with the storm beginning to hit, we finally have an answer. But it’s not even close to ideal.
The North Carolina Courage was the dominant team in NWSL this season. That they have to travel across the continent for a playoff match is absurd, and that the decision was made this late has left everyone bruised.
Perhaps all other options have been explored, or perhaps the league just waited too long to make the call. Maybe it was NCC dragging its feet, holding out for home field advantage just a little too long, that finally forced the league to reschedule the NCC-Chicago Red Stars semifinal and move it to the other side of the country, out of the way of Hurricane Florence. And maybe Portland was the only “neutral” ground offering to host.
But it seemed no one was willing to take charge and make the call. Yesterday in a preview conference call, Chicago coach Rory Dames was unsure who would even be making the final decision as to when and where the match would be played. And this morning, NCC president Curt Johnson was on Twitter, suggesting that Dames “quit stirring the pot” and insisting “Drainage WILL NOT BE A PROBLEM” after Dames posted video of what appears to be a water-logged NCC pitch in July.
Nashville, Cincinnati, Columbus, Atlanta. I cannot imagine there were no reasonably-sized, out-of-harm’s-way stadiums available in the eastern United States.
Portland will never be a neutral venue for a team from North Carolina. To pretend otherwise is silly.
North Carolina fans are angry, as they should be. Their safety and the safety of the team they support was put at risk and those who may have been able to travel had the game been rescheduled days ago are unlikely to do so now. It sucks to see your advantage be eliminated. It shouldn’t have happened this way.
I’ll lay out all my biases. I’ve never been shy about them:
I do not believe a NWSL team should have been placed in North Carolina, a state to which many of my LGBTQ friends do not feel safe travelling. I am as frustrated now as I was when the move from Western New York was announced. That frustration is heightened by the fact that this NC team harbors a player who holds homophobic views.