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Monitoring The Situation [UPDATED]

The Red Stars might have to fly into the path of a hurricane for their NWSL playoff match— all thanks to a failure of leadership at the league office

Photograph by | Nikita Taparia

While we here at Hot Time In Old Town continue to crank out Chicago Red Stars coverage for playoff week, this includes keeping an eye on Hurricane Florence. The schedule for semifinal weekend was announced during the offseason for September 15 and 16th.

As the regular season concluded, the Red Stars found themselves clinching the final playoff spot with a game to spare. They ended up the fourth seed, and were scheduled to play the number one seed North Carolina Courage in Cary, NC.

As some of you may have heard, there is a Hurricane headed for the east coast headed directly towards North Carolina.

If weather is not your bag, here is a quick run down for you:

Wait, They’re Actually Going To Play?

The potentially devastating hurricane has added an entirely different element than just the regular routine of getting ready for match day, and on Monday the North Carolina Courage and NWSL released a statement saying they were monitoring weather conditions.

Over the course of the week it was reported that by Wednesday there would be a decision from the league regarding the outlook of Sunday’s game. By the afternoon, the league released another statement, stating that Sunday’s match was in doubt - but the Hurricane was still being monitored, with options being explored.

Wow, That All Sounds Really Dangerous!

Since Monday, a number of scenarios had evolved. You can even read a few here. From the idea of playing at a neutral site, to even delaying the game to Monday.

Despite several North Carolina based athletic programs cancelling their games, including the North Carolina FC youth programs - many awaited a decision from the league. However, by Wednesday afternoon, no concrete decision had been made by league offices on the outcome of Sunday’s match.

So WTF Is Going To Happen?!

No. One. Knows.

One thing for sure, is that this is looking like another potential black eye on the league in regards to the number of weather related issues this year. From lighting storms to smoky air quality issues, they have left a stain on the league for their handling of the weather related events.

On a conference call Wednesday afternoon, North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley had this to say when asked about the Hurricane impacting his team:

“No I don’t think it matters to our lot . . . We’ve spoken about it very little, to be honest with you. We’re just getting on with it. If we get more time to prepare, than we get more time to prepare. But we’d play in the local parking lot if we could or in a supermarket parking lot, doesn’t matter. We’ll play them anywhere.”

This All Sounds Really Bad For Chicago

It is.

With the days passing by, and Hurricane Florence hurtling closer to the east coast with each passing minute, the pressure is on the league to have a course of action in place. However, after Wednesday’s call, the response is unchanged. Everyone’s monitoring the situation.

“Obviously at this point it’s about the safety of everybody. So, I think I think that’s the most important part. On the other side of it for us is we’re just preparing. If we get an extra day or two fine if we dont fine. We’re going ahead with plans.” Riley continued saying, “We’re off Friday which would’ve been normal for us anyway no matter what so I think the heart of the storm will be off Friday and we will take it from there.”

The Governor of North Carolina also held a press conference on Tuesday morning, warning citizens of the dangers.

Head Coach Rory Dames commented on some of the Governor’s comments saying “I think the Governor of NC is probably telling people that this is probably not a good place to come to right now.” Dames continued saying “He probably feels a lot more comfortable saying that then the people who have to make those decisions [about the match].”

The Red Stars has been going about their usual preparations for the game on Sunday. The team is also keeping an eye on the storm that is brewing on the east coast despite the lack of urgency from the league.

“If we are told the game is in North Carolina on such and such date, the league obviously has the authority to do that, but it’ll be up to each individual player and staff member if they go or not.” Said Dames.

“I’m not going to mandate that somebody step on a plane and fly into something that they’re not comfortable with or that they fear for their safety. . . We don’t know any better. We only know what we see and we read and each person has to make their own decision,” Dames continued, “everybody’s end all be all isn’t the soccer game on Sunday.”

Dames is adamant about the safety of his players despite the ‘wait it out and see approach’ that has taken place over the last couple days from the league offices.

“We had that conversation this morning. We tried to set the players at ease. At the end of the day it would be their individual decisions if they’re there or not there, if they go or don’t go - along with the staff.” Dames continued, “All we can do is prepare and get ready for the game, and once that decision is made or once we’re told what’s happening, then we’ll have another talk amongst the group and people can make the decisions that are best for them.”

Is There Really Nothing That Can Be Done?

Time is running out to make any major changes, but with the league office now in Portland ahead of this weekend’s game, there is still the possibility of making the right choice of moving the game to a neutral site. But with landfall quickly approaching, one has to wonder if the window has closed to provide a solution that works best for everyone.


Update

Late Thursday afternoon, The NWSL announced that the semifinal has been rescheduled and relocated. Both teams are now set to play in Portland, Oregon at Providence Park on Tuesday September 18, at 8pm CT.

After nearly a week of a ‘sit and wait it out’ approach, the decision came today as Hurricane Florence approached the east coast.

Both the Chicago Red Stars and NWSL sent out news releases and have updated their websites to reflect the change, including ESPN, while the North Carolina Courage have yet to acknowledge the changes to the semifinal. As of this update, there are no current news releases are on the team site.

We will continue to update this story as it develops.