Skip to content

In the wake of Seattle, is it too soon to rekindle The FieldTurf Conversation?

Jun 12, 2013, 4:45 PM EDT

BMlG8tCCUAAmSil

SEATTLE — At some point, we’re going to have this debate. Why not now? Because if we don’t talk it out now, we’ll just put it off. Again. And then next time a Pacific Northwest match is suggested, everybody will forget the lessons of Seattle, fall back on the old arguments, and we’ll either have another game on an unacceptable surface or another 36-year gap between Seattle qualifiers.

The main lesson from this process: Temporary grass is terrible. If this was 1994 and groundskeepers had months to cultivate the grass and were able to lay it weeks ahead of time, this would be a different discussion. That’s the process that can’t happen in the middle of a qualifying cycle, nor it is worth it. If you want to play on grass in Seattle, you’re going to have to sacrifice field quality.

I know, last night everybody was saying the right things, giving the Seattle ground crew the respect they deserved. Whomever worked on that field over the last week took if from “oh my God, why” to “well, this could work.” It was the grounds keeping equivalent to reconstructive surgery, and the operation was successful.

But you saw the players slipping around, whether it was Geoff Cameron flopping onto his hip in the middle of the field or Carlos Rodriguez falling face-first near the byline after sprinting past Brad Evans. And if you saw Saturday’s Sounders-Whitecaps game, a match where neither team had a chance to train on the newly laid surface, you witnessed two teams who couldn’t come into the match for 10 to 15 minutes, after which both sides compensated for the uneven surface.

In both games, not only did the quality suffer, but the players had to adjust to the self-inflicted circumstances. For a team that complained mightily about the cricket ground conditions in Antigua and Barbuda, it was surprising to see such deleterious compromises were deemed acceptable.

Late last night, the same doctors who performed the field’s reconstructive surgery wasted no time ruining their work. As stadium staff were restoring the CenturyLink stands, the groundskeepers doing the same to field, with the process of bringing the normal surface forward hitting its stride today. As you can see in the image above (via Twitter user @bartwiley), Seattle was more than ready to trade that TempSod for their FieldTurf.

It all seems so useless. Seattle paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring in a maligned field when they had a perfectly good surface underneath, all at the behest of U.S. Soccer. They didn’t want to do it, but as a tradeoff to get a World Cup Qualifier, they were willing to bring in the sod, reduce the quality of play, all because of some dated idea of what turf is or is not.

When most people think turf, they still think of the early MLS, rug over concrete, career-breaking carpets that were too prevalent back in the day. Even now, at BC Place and when Toronto and Montreal play in their alternate homes, poor fields see time in Major League Soccer, instances that muddy the discussions surrounding Seattle and Portland. The first step in having a real discussion about the tradeoffs of turf is recognizing not all turf is created equal.

Seattle and Portland are perfectly fine. For those who have played there, covered games there, or even watched games on television, you can see the difference in play between the roll forever rug in Vancouver and the games further south.

Does CenturyLink, JELD-WEN have perfect conditions? Are they well-maintained grass surfaces? Of course not. But players — from Major League Soccer professionals down to youth players throughout the country — constantly play on those surfaces. They’re different, but they’re fine. Even David Beckham and Thierry Henry have played games in Portland, and while the common refrain ‘players don’t like turf’ still gets thrown out, a more constructive statement is ‘players prefer grass.’ No player in Seattle or Portland speaks ill of their surfaces. Nobody’s going to turn their back on those clubs because of field issues.

And with young players all over the country playing on these new, improved surfaces, it’s possible this is just a generational issue. The new players coming up won’t have the same biases. They won’t have the scars of knee operations brought on by artificial turf. They won’t have that innate reticence to go stay up for fear of bring on turf burn. They’ll have a completely different concept of turf, ideas that should will likely permeate through the soccer masses, making games on good turf surfaces more acceptable.

The real question, acknowledging that well-kept grass surfaces are the ideal, is whether the trade-off of Seattle’s atmosphere, undoubtedly replicated (if in a different way) in Portland, is worth the compromise. But how can everybody that’s been so effusive about Tuesday’s display say it’s not worth the small sacrifice – playing on Seattle, Portland’s turf in exchange for that kind of support?

Latest Posts
  1. Hull City sign Gaston Ramirez on loan, agree deal for Ben Arfa

    Sep 1, 2014, 5:42 PM EDT

    Austria v Uruguay - International Friendly Match Getty Images

    Hull busy on Deadline Day as Ramirez join on loan, Ben Arfa could follow, late on Deadline Day.

  2. WATCH: Own goal for ages, Zlatan hat trick key PSG win over St Etienne

    Sep 1, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT

    Paris Saint-Germain FC v AS Saint-Etienne - Ligue 1 Getty Images

    In the words of NHL commentator Rick Jeanneret, roll the highlight reel for Ibra, Cavani and PSG, and the lowlight reel for one poor keeper.

  3. Reports: Arsenal to fork over $26 mil for Manchester United’s Welbeck

    Sep 1, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer England AP

    Not a huge risk for Arsenal, but certainly a good bit of business for United. Could Welbeck become the next Daniel Sturridge?

  4. Deadline Day Transfer Rumor Roundup: 11th hour edition

    Sep 1, 2014, 4:18 PM EDT

    1409570021796_wps_117_BURNLEY_ENGLAND_AUGUST_30 Getty Images

    Jermain Defoe, Danny Welbeck and Hatem Ben Arfa all make one last run through the rumor mill as the deadline draws near.

  5. Done Deal: Daley Blind is officially a member of Manchester United

    Sep 1, 2014, 3:49 PM EDT

    _77314123_bwejvymimaacber

    The Dutch international rejoins his World Cup boss for four seasons at “the biggest club in the world.”

  6. Radamel Falcao’s heavy cost to Manchester United is in wages, not fee

    Sep 1, 2014, 3:32 PM EDT

    Falcao AP

    What originally was thought to be a steal is turning out to be quite a hit to Manchester United’s wallet.

  7. Confirmed AC Milan swap deal for Jonathan Biabiany now suddenly off

    Sep 1, 2014, 3:07 PM EDT

    Biabiany Getty Images

    AC Milan made the terrible mistake of confirming a deal before it was complete, and now they’re forced to rescind their confirmation.

  8. Stoke want to keep USA’s Geoff Cameron, Southampton in the hunt

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT

    Harry Kane, Geoff Cameron AP

    Time running out for U.S. national team star to seal his move away from Stoke.

  9. Tottenham Hotspur offer $26 million plus Andros Townsend for Jay Rodriguez

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    350x AP

    Spurs could be back in for Rodriguez, as third bid made for England international.

  10. Reports place Welbeck at Arsenal’s training ground, but that’s because so is England

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:27 PM EDT

    Photo credit: Squawka Photo credit: Squawka

    Reports are exploding that Welbeck’s location lends itself to a shock move to Arsenal, but we’re not so sure.

  11. Burnley sign young Chelsea midfielder Nathan Chalobah on loan

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT

    Chalobah Getty Images

    It’s the fourth loan spell for Chalobah, who will get his first taste of Premier League play.

  12. Hull City breaks club transfer record to sign Abel Hernandez

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    Hernandez Getty Images

    A fee of around $15 million breaks Hull City’s transfer record for a player.

  13. Julian Green completes loan move to Hamburg

    Sep 1, 2014, 11:46 AM EDT

    Green Getty Images

    A season-long move to last year’s relegation threatened squad will see Green get valuable playing experience.

  14. Fiorentina announce Giuseppe Rossi will undergo more knee surgery

    Sep 1, 2014, 11:23 AM EDT

    Rossi Getty Images

    The 27-year-old midfielder can’t catch a break, as his knee fails him yet again.

  15. Reports: Sandro having a medical at QPR and fee agreed for Borini

    Sep 1, 2014, 10:57 AM EDT

    Sandro AP

    Down the depth chart at Spurs, Sandro could be on his way to QPR. Borini would be a backup plan to Jermain Defoe.

  16. Premier League Playback – Deadline Day madness, Chelsea’s ‘killers,’ Liverpool’s fluid-three

    Sep 1, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Manchester United Angel Di Maria AP

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from Week 3 in the PL.

  17. LIVE Transfer Ticker – Deadline Day updates

    Sep 1, 2014, 10:06 AM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Stay up to date with everything happening on Deadline Day with our live ticker.

Featured video

Week 3: Saturday Premier League recap