By Leander Schaerlaeckens, FOXSoccer.com
It never ceases to be a problem: rolls of grass sod laid over artificial turf for a few days so that a soccer game might feel like an actual soccer game.
The United States men’s national team played on one such field in Seattle during a World Cup qualifier last month and the interim surface held up fairly well. It did too in Baltimore for the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals on Sunday, in spite of the lashing rain.
But this time around, the prospect of playing yet another game on this strange arrangement is a bleak one. The grass laid over the Cowboys Stadium turf for the USA to face Honduras in the Gold Cup semis on Wednesday – and for Mexico to face Panama a few hours later – looks in dreadful shape long before it’s even been played on:
Photo: Leander Schaerlaeckens/FOXSoccer.com
Ahead of their only practice on the field on Tuesday afternoon, the American outfit was predictably diplomatic about the prospects of playing on another such field. (“We’ll deal with it then,” and “Both teams have to play on it,” and other such stock answers were delivered.) But this field must have inspired a real terror in them when they first trod on it.
Frankly, it looks like it was poorly laid, using a poor stock of grass. It is patchy, with long gashes between strips of it that don’t touch or line up. Green sand was being used to fill those holes, but that could do little to make the surface any softer. Walking over it even as a reporter in sneakers, the ground beneath you was noticeably hard and unforgiving.
How then, will players who have overcome serious knee injuries like Stu Holden or the newly recalled Omar Gonzalez handle playing on it? Will head coach Jurgen Klinsmann risk their health on it at all?
When I asked him how much of a consideration the management of minutes for those recovering from injuries, fresh to the team or indeed in danger of re-aggravating old ailments because of the surface was at this pivotal stage of the tournament, Klinsmann said it wasn’t any different than usual.
But this time it is different. You don’t want to dilute your lineup any for fear of surface-induced injuries. Not in a semifinal. Yet the sorry state of the grass at Cowboys Stadium has made that impossible for him,whether he’ll admit to it or not.