MLS turf timeline: A look at some of the most memorable moments on artificial grass
This is a companion piece to feature writer Charlie Boehm’s long-form story: "How artificial turf could change the future of soccer in North America."
From the early days of Major League Soccer to the present, at least one team has played on artificial turf every season in the league’s history. And that's made for plenty of memorable moments. Here’s a quick look at some of the biggest in the history of turf in MLS.
Aug. 14, 1996 – After opening the season on a grass surface at the now-defunct Giants Stadium, the New York/New Jersey MetroStars top the New England Revolution 4-0 in the first game played on turf. The NFL's Giants and Jets had no intentions of playing their preseason games on grass and then making the planned switch to turf later in the season, so they tore up the grass and laid down the turf. The Metros – who were the only team to play their home games on turf during the league's inaugural year – played there through the 2009 season.
April 27, 2002 – With Soldier Field undergoing massive renovations, defender Carlos Bocanegra (right) and the Chicago Fire open their season at Cardinal Stadium in suburban Naperville, Ill. The club spent two seasons in their temporary home, making the playoffs both years and winning the Supporters’ Shield in 2003 on the back of a stellar 10-1-4 record on the turf at Cardinal Stadium. They did, however, play their 2003 playoff games at Soldier Field.
April 12, 2003 – In one of the most unique temporary moves in league history, the Dallas Burn open their home slate at Dragon Stadium in Southlake, Texas. The club played 15 home games at the high school stadium that year before moving back to the Cotton Bowl for the 2004 season. Dallas finished last in the Western Conference in 2003, but largely because they only won one of 15 games on the road.
April 16, 2005 – Real Salt Lake make their home debut at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium, riding an 81st-minute goal from Brian Dunseth (right) to a 1-0 win over the rival Colorado Rapids. RSL only won five games during their inaugural season – all on the turf at Rice-Eccles.
April 14, 2007 – Taylor Twellman scores two goals in the first 18 minutes of the New England Revolution’s 4-1 win over Toronto FC, marking the first game for the Revs on the new turf surface at Gillette Stadium. Twellman would finish with 14 goals in 22 regular-season games all-time on the turf in Foxborough.
May 12, 2007 – Danny Dichio forever etches his name in the Toronto FC history books with a goal in the 24th minute of TFC’s first-ever franchise win, a 3-1 victory against the Chicago Fire. BMO Field was field turf from 2007-09 and switched to grass ahead of the 2010 season, when it hosted MLS Cup. The Reds finished 19-12-14 on the turf in three seasons.
Aug. 18, 2007 – In arguably the most memorable MLS game ever played on turf, more than 66,000 fans pack Giants Stadium to watch David Beckham and the LA Galaxy take on Juan Pablo Ángel and the New York Red Bulls. Beckham finishes with two assists, but Ángel gets the last laugh with the game-winner in the 88th minute of a 5-4 victory for New York.
Nov. 8, 2007 – Twellman scores one of the most remarkable goals in Revolution franchise history, a 38th-minute bicycle kick to help defeat the Chicago Fire in the Eastern Conference Championship (right). The Revs have never lost a playoff game on the turf at Gllette, posting a 3-0-1 record heading into this season.
March 19, 2009 – Fredy Montero scores two goals and Brad Evans adds another as the Seattle Sounders win their inaugural game 3-0 over the visiting New York Red Bulls at then-Qwest Field in Seattle. The Sounders lost just twice in 15 regular-season games at home in their first year in MLS.
Oct. 24, 2009 – Ángel scores two goals to fuel the Red Bulls’ 5-0 romp over Toronto FC in the final MLS game played at Giants Stadium. Ángel, for his part, did some of his best work there, scoring 33 goals in 37 games before the team moved to Red Bull Arena for the 2010 season.
Nov. 22, 2009 – Real Salt Lake top the LA Galaxy in a shootout to win the MLS Cup in Seattle, still the only time the league has played its championship game on an artificial surface.
Oct. 5, 2010 – The Sounders rally from an early 1-0 deficit to top the Columbus Crew to win their second consecutive US Open Cup crown, and first in front of the home crowd at Qwest Field. The Sounders, who traditionally play early-round games at the nearby Starfire Complex but save finals appearances for the turf downtown, also won the 2011 USOC title over the Chicago Fire there (right).
March 19, 2011 – The Vancouver Whitecaps make their MLS debut with a 3-1 win over rival Toronto FC at Empire Field, a temporary turf field replaced by the renovated BC Place in October. The 'Caps are 12-5-7 all-time at BC Place since its debut.
April 14, 2011 – Less than a month after the 'Caps make their MLS debut, the Portland Timbers top the Chicago Fire in their home-opener at JELD-WEN Field. While Portland famously struggled on the road during their inaugural year, they nearly rode a solid home record (9-5-3) to a playoff berth.
Oct. 15, 2011 – Seattle fans arrive in droves at CenturyLink field – more than 64,000 by the time they were all counted – to watch the final regular-season home game for Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller (video above). The former US national team veteran doesn't disappont, backstopping the Sounders to a 2-1 win against the visiting San Jose Earthquakes.
May 12, 2012 – Nearly 61,000 fans pack Olympic Stadium in Montreal to watch the expansion Impact take on the LA Galaxy. Montreal’s Davy Arnaud – who scored the team’s first-ever MLS goal in the team’s home opener on March 17 – scores, but David Beckham answers to leave the fans with a 1-1 draw.
July 14, 2012 – In perhaps the most exciting game played so far at JELD-WEN Field, Beckham scores twice and Landon Donovan adds a goal as the visiting LA Galaxy top the Timbers, 5-3. Portland Designated Player Kris Boyd also scores a pair of goals in the loss.