CHARLESTON, S.C. – Heavy rainfall washed out the final day of the Carolina Challenge Cup on Saturday, as D.C. United captured the tournament title even though no games were played at soggy Blackbaud Stadium.
Following steady rainfall and storms throughout the afternoon and evening, which showed no signs of slowing down, the final two matches of the tournament between D.C. United and the Columbus Crew and the Chicago Fire and Charleston Battery were called off. They will not be rescheduled.
“We’re very disappointed, but the main purpose of the tournament is to provide the preseason games for the MLS teams,” Battery president Andrew Bell told MLSsoccer.com. “We left the decision to the coaches.
The coaches in question – D.C.’s Ben Olsen, Columbus’ Robert Warzycha and Chicago’s Frank Klopas – all came to the same conclusion: no games would be played out of concern for potential injury and because the patches of standing water on the field would affect the quality of play.
Following the cancellation of the first game, Klopas and his coaching staff walked the field for 15 minutes before deciding to keep their squad at the team hotel.
“We walked around the field and obviously there are a lot of water puddles as we were rolling the ball,” Klopas told MLSsoccer.com. “Some areas are good, some are not. More than anything, when you look at the radar, there is heavy rain from 7 p.m. on.
“We needed to play the game, but we needed to play the game to get something out of it. We don’t want to risk an injury at this point in the season. In a situation like this, it’s an unfortunate thing but I think we made the smart decision.”
The field at Blackbaud Stadium sits on a sand and rock base, which drains into a retention pond at the edge of pitch and disperses into the surrounding marshland. Bell said it would take at least an hour without rainfall for the pitch to drain enough to be playable, a prospect the forecast effectively ruled out.
With the rain showing no signs of stopping and the pond full from the day’s precipitation, tournament organizers and the participating MLS coaching staffs were left with little choice but to cancel the Saturday’s matches.
“Obviously, the first game there was lightning and there was standing water on the field, so it was a fairly easy decision,” Bell said. “The second game we waited. We brought our players in and (Chicago's coaching staff) came, but Frank (Klopas) decided that it wasn’t going to be a useful exercise for them. It’s funny because we actually haven’t had any rain all winter in Charleston, but then it’s all come today.”