The New York Red Bulls’ preparations for CONCACAF Champions League received an unexpected boost with the news that the team’s opening-round opponent, CD Olimpia, might not be able to play its home game of the two-match series at home.
Olimpia is already shouldering the burden of a six-game penalty imposed on the club by CONCACAF for “serious infractions to the tournament safety protocol” (i.e. crowd trouble) during the second leg of its 2017 CONCACAF League (effectively the second division of CONCACAF international club tournments) quarterfinal back in August.
Per Diez, CONCACAF decreed Olimpia would have to play its next six home games in international club competition behind closed doors, and in a stadium of CONCACAF’s choosing. Olimpia went on to win the CONCACAF League - qualifying for this year’s CCL - but played its semi-final and final “home” legs in San Pedro Sula rather than Tegucigalpa.
It was safe to assume Olimpia’s “home” game against RBNY would also be played in an empty Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula, or some other suitable facility in Honduras that isn’t Olimpia’s home ground.
But in the time since Olimpia won the CONCACAF League, there has been a contentious presidential election in Honduras. And a series of protests that have resulted in fatalities. Another death was reported during a protest on Saturday, January 20, which is perhaps why AS chose January 21 to report that the two Honduran clubs in CCL 2018 - Motagua and Olimpia - had requested they be allowed to play outside their home games in the competitition outside their home country.
Back on January 11, El Heraldo reported that CONCACAF was considering moving CCL games out of Honduras, in anticipation of continuing disturbances up to and beyond the presumptive start date of the new presidential term: January 27.
As clarified by CONCACAF in a media release, the process of moving the game is underway. The news is that the home teams have submitted their preferred venues. CONCACAF will announce its decision after due consideration and administrative procedures.
CONCACAF informs media the following regarding the 2018 @TheChampions Round of 16 matches: Per the official, on-going procedure of change of site due to force majeure, @MOTAGUAcom and @CDOlimpia have notified @CONCACAF of their selections for alternative sites.— CONCACAF MEDIA (@CONCACAFMedia) January 22, 2018
Per AS, Motagua and Olimpia would like to play their matches in Central Broward Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida- a cricket stadium by design, but reportedly located in an area with a significant Honduran population. The number of potential fans nearby won’t be much use to Olimpia - presumably still required to play behind closed doors - but would certainly be a boost for Motagua.
There is a competing suggestion, however: the Olimpia game won’t be played in Broward County but rather will be played in Costa Rica.
Confirmado, el @CDOlimpia jugará su partido de @TheChampions en @CONCACAF ante @NewYorkRedBulls de la @MLS, el 22 de febrero, a puerta cerrada, en el Estadio Nacional de San José @TeleticaTD7 @CronicaTR @GusMenFox @Remero20 @FabianBM08 @Gustavolopezca @PaulTenorio— Jorge (@jorge8martinez) January 22, 2018
That Tweet dropped about 35 minutes after CONCACAF’s official statement that the decision was still pending. And four minutes before RBNY sent out a note to say it had nothing to add to the confederation’s official statement.
But Jorge Martinez is on the ground in Costa Rica, had already flagged that San Jose’s Estadio Nacional was being considered, and isn’t shy about identifying his sources.
El @CDOlimpia estaría considerando jugar su partido de Concacaf Liga de Campeones en Costa Rica, debido a los problemas de seguridad que afectan a Honduras @CronicaTR @TeleticaTD7 @Juan_Ulloa2017 @FabianBM08 @MiguelCald7 @Gustavolopezca @Kris_MoraCR— Jorge (@jorge8martinez) January 22, 2018
Will be here. The Olimpia´s vicepresident confirm us the game will be at Estadio Nacional.— Jorge (@jorge8martinez) January 22, 2018
The Red Bulls would doubtless prefer to play the game in Florida: easier travel and the team is currently pre-seasoning in Florida as it is (nearer Tampa than Lauderhill but a lot closer to Central Broward Stadium than San Jose, Costa Rica).
But CONCACAF is shopping around for an appropriate venue to use on February 22 as Olimpia’s “home” ground. It might well be that Central Broward Stadium isn’t up to hosting back-to-back games (Motagua plays Tijuana in CCL on February 21), or simply isn’t up to the standard CONCACAF requires for its showpiece tournament.
The official announcement will clarify the details; it does now seem certain the game won’t be played in Honduras.
For the Red Bulls, while their cause would be helped by knowing where they’ll be playing sooner than later, not too much has changed. They can still expect to play Olimpia on the road in an empty stadium on February 22. They will surely be relieved to be spared the uncertainty of whatever is happening in Honduras by that time. The only question remaining is whether they need to book February flights to Florida or Costa Rica.