KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It’s certainly not a point of pride for Sporting Kansas City, but it has become increasingly obvious that the pitch at Livestrong Sporting Park hasn’t dealt well with the heat and glut of games this summer.
Large divots sprang up when players attempted to plant at speed during Monday’s match against the league-leading LA Galaxy, and both teams appeared to have trouble keeping their feet and connecting passes cleanly on the pockmarked surface.
“The field was tough to play beautiful soccer on,” goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said afterward.
Sporting KC president Robb Heineman tweeted after the game that the brief lead-up to the season, dry summer heat and heavy use had prevented the grass from taking root properly. He also said the club hoped overseeding would help correct the current issues by the end of September.
Asked to comment on his first trip to LSP, a question that has become custom for visiting managers, Galaxy manager Bruce Arena praised the stadium itself before moving onto the surface.
“[It’s a] great facility, hopefully they can get the field right,” Arena said. “It’s a shame that the field is in the shape it’s in. Obviously, it’s challenging with the climate here. You have extreme heat at times and some cold. It is hard to manage the turf the right way and obviously when you do other events on the field, the field takes a beating.”
In addition to the 16 MLS regular-season and US Open Cup games played at LSP this season, the facility also hosted two concerts in August, taking enough of a toll on the pitch that it has affected play over the last two weeks.
Sporting have five games remaining at home, including a friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara on Oct. 12, giving the grounds crew limited time to encourage growth before the end of the season.
“It’s not easy right now, but I know they are working hard to get it back to where they need it to be,” Davy Arnaud said. “At the end of the day, both teams have to deal with it. We’re used to playing on it now. It can be an advantage for us.”
Late-game fireworks becoming custom at LSP
The players feel it, the coaches feel it and the fans most definitely feel it.
One game at a time, Livestrong Sporting Park is developing a reputation for wild finishes and last-second goals. For the fourth time in Kansas City’s last seven home games, a goal in the game’s final few minutes defined the result as Sporting snuck out a 2-2 draw against the Galaxy.
“There is always a flair for the dramatic at Livestrong Park,” midfielder Graham Zusi said. “This was no different.”
Down a goal with seconds remaining, Sporting pulled out a late draw in dramatic fashion via a Frankie Hejduk hand ball and the ensuing penalty kick by Omar Bravo. It was the third game at LSP that Kansas City have salvaged a point from with a goal in the final seconds.
Seattle and Dallas, on the other hand, have managed to sneak away with two last-gasp victories from trips to KC, which are also the only two games Sporting have lost at home this season.
Bunbury back in, Collin out against Houston
Teal Bunbury, who was expected to be absent from Monday’s game because of national-team duty, will be available for selection against the Dynamo on Saturday after serving his red-card suspension against LA.
Along with the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan, Bunbury returned from US national team camp to Kansas City for the Labor Day game, which allowed him to serve the suspension while Donovan appeared as a substitute. The young striker would have had to miss the Houston game as well had he traveled with the United States to Belgium.
Defender Aurélien Collin, however, will not be available against Houston after picking up a second-half caution for a tackle on Donovan, resulting in an automatic suspension for yellow-card accumulation. Collin has eight cautions this season in 17 appearances.