It might be a perfectly manicured pitch when superpowers AC Milan and Chelsea walk on it in two weeks, but the grass that was laid down before the MetroStars and Colorado Rapids played to a 1-1 tie Saturday at Giants Stadium was not exactly what the MetroStars players had in mind.
"It's not for soccer," Metros forward Ante Razov said. "You go to hit the ball and a whole chunk of turf slides three yards under your feet."
Brought in for the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals and finals, as well as the international friendly between Chelsea and AC Milan on July 31, the grass was thick and -- combined with Colorado's defensive posture -- made it difficult for the MetroStars players going forward.
The grass was at least partially responsible for forcing both Razov and Mark Lisi out of the game with leg cramps. Razov left the game in the 84th minute, replaced by rookie Abbe Ibrahim, and Mike Magee came on for Lisi in the 89th minute.
But Lisi said the turf was no excuse for the Metros lackluster play.
"It is what is it. We're not the only team that had to deal with it," Lisi said. "You just have to deal with it. It shouldn't change the way we play."
The Metros also missed another opportunity to move into sole possession of third place -- instead they remain entrenched in a tie with D.C. United, three points behind Kansas City.
"I think the players will tell you that the field was heavy," Metros coach Bob Bradley said. "Colorado also had a good game plan and it's our job to be good enough to take it apart."
Before he left the field, Razov tied Raul Diaz Arce for fourth all-time with his 82nd career goal in the 51st minute. A nice combination between Lisi and Amado Guevara set up Razov's fifth goal of the year and fourth with the Metros. Guevara cut through traffic near the top of the box and Razov blasted a deflected ball past Joe Cannon from the top of the restraining arc.
"They were crowding the 18 (yard box) and there was nothing in the penalty box so I kind of pulled myself out, laid back and luckily it came right to me," Razov said. "I was lucky I wasn't really running. I was kind of standing still so I was able to get my feet set, get a good shot and fortunately it went in."
Colorado equalized nine minutes later against the run of play on a brilliant first-time strike by Jeff Cunningham. He blasted Ritchie Kotschau's cross into the net from the right corner of the six-yard box for his league-leading ninth goal of the year.
"He's a guy who never stops running, he's on your heels all the time. He's quick and strong," Metros defender Carlos Mendes said of Cunningham, who was snubbed of an MLS All-Star selection. "He's a player you need to be wary of."
The Metros had their best scoring chance of the first half less than three minutes into the game when Youri Djorkaeff headed Guevara's corner kick off the far post.
But the Metros had very little to show from the rest of a flat first half. Bradley brought on Sergio Galvan Rey at the start of the second half, replacing Djorkaeff and the "King of Goals" instantly injected some energy in the attacking third.
"At halftime there is still a good sense amongst all of that we had gotten frustrated, we had not pushed the game in a way we like," Bradley said. "I thought the response coming out in the second half was good."
The Metros were more determined going forward in the second half and outshot the Rapids 12-3. But all they could muster out of seven second half corner kicks was an Abbe Ibrahim touch in front of the net in the third minute of stoppage time that was cleared off the line.
Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.