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Bruce Arena calls artificial turf in MLS “disasters”

Sep 14, 2013, 3:32 PM EDT

The false roof at BC Place encloses the lower bowl and still keeps the atmosphere on  a 'Caps matchday. The false roof at BC Place encloses the lower bowl and still keeps the atmosphere on a 'Caps matchday.

When you have done as much as Bruce Arena has in the game, you have earned some measure of security and cushioning … and that allows you to be honest in ways that not all managers are 100 percent comfortable with.

Then again, Arena has always been honest about things, even before he had earned the right in such a way … sometimes even controversially so. Like way, way back when he infamously said Americans were “too stupid know how to fix a draw.”

Yeah, that one was uncomfortable.

His two-time defending MLS champion LA Galaxy is at RFK Stadium today for a match with Eastern Conference also ran D.C. United. It’s a great chance for the Galaxy to pick up three road points.

Ahead of the match, Arena had a sit-down with Washington Post reporter Steven Goff, who goes way back with first coach of D.C. United. So they went around the table on some broader MLS topics, like scheduling through FIFA dates and the potential for a reduced league schedule.

And they talked about artificial turf, which few in the game appreciate. But most don’t bring the big hammer the way Arena feels comfortable in doing. Here’s what he said and the fake grass at four MLS venues:

They are disasters. The only one that is somewhat acceptable is Portland. The others are all terrible. Seattle is bad. Vancouver is probably the worst. And New England isn’t good.”

It’s a good read. He’s got interesting takes on the Clint Dempsey acquisition, on MLS after 18 years and more.

  1. talgrath - Sep 14, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    Ah, classic Bruce Arena, once a jerk always a jerk. The fact is that turf is used in the Pacific Northwest not because we really like it, but because otherwise it would be really expensive. The Pacific Northwest gets a lot of rain during the fall and spring, it is pretty much a constant, everyday thing. With all the rain we get, a grass field would quickly become mud from all of the cleated boots stomping around on it, so either it’s a terrible, muddy mess or you’re replacing the field every match or two during the spring and fall.

    • east96st - Sep 14, 2013 at 6:51 PM

      Actually, Portland, Vancouver, and New England gets LESS rain than Columbus during the MLS season. So, if Columbus can make it work, certainly Portland, Vancouver, and New England can. Seattle, well, I admit early spring and late fall, they get more rain than Columbus, but only in March & October. However, Columbus gets much more rain during May thru August.

      • overtherepermanently - Sep 14, 2013 at 10:46 PM

        New England’s turf has zero to do with the weather during the MLS season, and everything to do with the weather during the NFL season.

      • east96st - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:26 AM

        overthere – Then it’s time to join the big boys and get their own stadium. Kind of embarrassing that a team with a long history like the Revs are still “renting”.

    • woodmoto - Sep 21, 2013 at 7:51 AM

      What a silly and baseless argument. The Pacific Northwest doesn’t even get 1/2 the rainfall we get in Houston each year. No artificial turf here, not even at the old University of Houston stadium that the Dynamo used to use. The fields do not get torn up each game, just routine maintenance. Plus the fact that Seattle and Portland are two of the biggest money making teams in the MLS.
      Take a look at the teams in England who get even more rain, much more than Seattle. There is no turf in England, all grass and they certainly don’t tramp around in mud.
      Most areas that get a lot of rain have a pumped drain system under the grass field that eliminates standing water in heavy rain.

  2. ndnut - Sep 14, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    Vancouver is bad, but I’d add Seattle to the list of being okay, along with Portland. And for the Revs, turf is not my biggest concern there.

  3. ramblingalb - Sep 14, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    Same for both teams. Who cares?

  4. dfstell - Sep 14, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    I know that the weather in the pacific northwest is the reason they have to play on sub-optimal surfaces. Here’s a question: Could those clubs play at a different time of year that would allow them to play on a natural surface? I mean, if the Pacific NW was on some kinda winter-summer split season, would that fix the problem?

    The only reason I ask is that it seems like one problem of MLS is that it forces everyone to play on the same schedule when the weather isn’t the same everywhere. I can’t think of another league in the world that has to deal with this. Consider the idea of a possible Atlanta team. They probably shouldn’t be playing in July/August but they could play right through the winter. New England and Toronto probably shouldn’t play through the winter, but are fine in the summer. Only a few places in the country are really soccer-friendly all year (southern CA).

    • east96st - Sep 14, 2013 at 6:41 PM

      MLS doesn’t play in the winter

  5. hildezero - Sep 14, 2013 at 6:30 PM


    Not really, because the home team would have a home field advantage. Literally.

  6. SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Sep 14, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    Portland’s artifical grass isn’t like any other. Seriously. The rest are artifical *turf* not *grass* which is used by American Football who want hard compacted surfaces to push against for leverage. Granted Portland has PSU Football play there as well, but they don’t have much say about the field. It’s made for Soccer first, Football second.

    Portland’s artifical grass looks and feels very close to natural grass.

  7. futbol247365 - Sep 14, 2013 at 7:39 PM

    Actually dude, no one plays on “turf” anymore. There is likely little to no difference between PDX and anyone else. Its all fake grass with rubber pellets as a base.

    • SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Sep 15, 2013 at 2:00 AM

      Oh the grass fundamentalist and their superstitions. There’s a huge difference between PDX and everywhere else and until you’ve walked on it and touched, you are making it up in your head. I’ve been to CLink, and yes, it’s “turf”. It’s short and compacted like carpet. I know you (and the rest of the grass fundamentalists) have your decision made up before you even finish reading the headline, but that knee jerk reaction is expected when you make up what you want. You have no idea what the conditions of the surface at Jeld Wen is. A look at that photo should give you an idea of how natural it reacts and plays.

      “We have what I believe to be the single-best artificial surface for pro soccer in the United States,” – Merritt Paulson

      “Their turf is good! It’s different from any other turf you play in the league. That’s an amazing one.” – Thierry Henry

      “The only one that is somewhat acceptable is Portland.” – Bruce Arena

      I could keep putting up quote after quote but you have cognitive dissonance so nothing will ever change your mind. Even though it’s just made up in your mind.

      Grass fundamentalists have no need for evidence or *proof* just dogma to repeat and repeat.

      • berzneex - Sep 15, 2013 at 11:34 AM

        Your comments are exactly what separates the MLS from the rest of the world. Football is meant to be played on grass and always has. The rain argument is baseless! The UK gets plenty of rain and even 3rd division teams play on grass regardless of conditions or minimal budget. Why don’t any of the top teams anywhere in the world even use synthetic grass to practice on? MLS is trying too hard to “Americanize” a world sport with salary cap, turf, etc.

        Ohh… I suppose if the NFL does it, it’s acceptable.


      • berzneex - Sep 15, 2013 at 11:39 AM

        Your comments are exactly what separates the MLS from the rest of the world. Football is meant to be played on grass and always has. The rain argument is baseless! The UK gets plenty of rain and even 3rd division teams play on grass regardless of conditions or minimal budget. Why don’t any of the top teams anywhere in the world even use synthetic grass to practice on? MLS is trying too hard to “Americanize” a world sport with salary cap, turf, etc.

        Ohh… I suppose if the NFL does it, it’s acceptable.


        Also… The “somewhat acceptable” comments are very reassuring:) MORON’

      • midtec2005 - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:53 AM

        berzneex… you may want to quit calling people uneducated. The rest of the world uses synthetic grass extensively. Especially in their academy systems, because it’s superior for technical training (I’ve been in Europe and seen the synthetic fields myself…). The game fields are usually still grass though.

  8. gpry - Sep 14, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    @talgrath. Hmm, I think ALL teams in England get ALOT of rain too, they seem to make it work.

  9. braxtonrob - Sep 14, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    If Portland has the best, then let everyone vote on it and if they concur, force the others to install the exact same artificial turf.

    We have to continue developing artificial turf by USING it, because there’s always going to be a need for it somewhere.

    Arena’s feedback is good, acting on it should be the next step.

  10. rphillish - Sep 14, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    It all comes down to cost and standards. Could they to do real grass in the northwest? Of course they could, they just don’t want to because of the cost. MLS should institute a set of standards, and if you want to use artificial surfaces you’re going to have to meet those standards. They could even adopt FIFA’s tests and standards. FIFA has given Jeld-Wen field it’s highest ranking, why not require every team meet those same standards?

    • east96st - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:28 AM

      What costs? Columbus gets as much, in some cases, more rain. If the Crew can afford a grass field, there’s no reason northwest teams can’t.

      • SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Sep 15, 2013 at 2:11 AM

        Although it might rain more in Ohio, it will never come close to raining as often, which is usually weeks on end of drizzle. Not huge gushing 2 hour thunderstorms but 2 weeks of the same amount all day. It’s very soggy and muddy from Oct – June. Granted that yes Cascadia has the best weather in the world from July to Sept which they could use grass. But All three Cascadian teams also have American Football played on them, so during those times, the fields would be crappy and so would the games.

        Portland actually could switch the easiest. Jeld Wen and it’s turf are made specifically for Soccer because the Timbers are the priority and if Merrit Paulson wants grass he doesn’t have to ask for permission from anyone else, unlike Seattle, Vancouver and N.E.

        But, I think it will come, at least to Portland and maybe Seattle but Vancouver and NE are long shots to ever switch.

  11. ctblues5 - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    Why not use the surface that they use in Philly it is a Desso GrassMaster? It is a combination of synthetic and natural grass and it is used at many soccer grounds in the UK, it was used in South Africa for the World Cup, and it is also used at Lambeau, and in Denver by the Broncos. MLS should also make it a standard that any team that wants to use an artificial surface they have to use that and if you can’t guess what you have to move your team, I’m looking at you Revs.

  12. hildezero - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    That’s what I’m saying. Why not use the 50/50 grass/turf? Costa Rica’s national team stadium has it. That was the same field that the game between Costa Rica and the US was played. They have it like that, because it rains a lot in that area.

    • braxtonrob - Sep 15, 2013 at 5:16 PM

      That field (in Costa Rica was HORRIBLE), fast on the outside, and stiff in the middle, inconsistent.
      I like the idea of 50/50 but only if it WORKS.

  13. midtec2005 - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    I’ve played extensively on some pretty good turf and I really enjoy it. I think grass is nicer sure, but the complaining is a little over-the-top. Nice turf like they have at Jeld-Wen is great to play on, especially since the ball bounces true every time. It allows proper football to be played! I don’t have a problem with it. It may be a good idea to require high-quality turf though, like in Portland.

  14. chrisgedwardson - Sep 16, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    Being in the industry, there are major differences between the synthetic surfaces, infill systems and base construction under the surface itself. As an example, Portland and Seattle have FieldTurf surfaces (Portland- Duraspine Pro and Seattle – Revolution) and both feature a patented rubber/sand infill system that the players plant and turn on. The infill is also very important to ball bounce and how hard or soft it is for a player to run on – extremes on either end are not good. In Vancouver, the surface is from Polytan – a European manufacturer. It has a very different type of infill and I think it is installed over a rubberized shock absorption system called an E-Layer. The infill system, carpet fibre composition and base construction are completely different than those of Portland and Seattle.

    Lets face it, most players would prefer to play on a really nice natural grass surface. However, in many multi use facilities, a synthetic surface offers cost savings and more versatility than that of a grass field. No watering, seeding, mowing, concert and event hosting, etc.. If the decision has been made to install a synthetic surface, then In my opinion, no question that FieldTurf offers the best systems.

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