SEATTLE – Nearly two years ago to the day, Clint Dempsey and the rest of the US national team weren’t shy at voicing their displeasure at having to play on turf fields overlain with natural grass.
“Maybe it is about bringing soccer in the States to a new area,” Dempsey told reporters after the Americans’ victory over Canada in Detroit in the opener of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the second consecutive match the US played on that type of surface. “I am all about that and both teams had to deal with the conditions, but ideally, you don’t want to play on a surface like that."
Well, a new city is getting its first World Cup qualifier in 37 years, and indeed that’s the exact type of surface the US and Panama will play on come Tuesday’s match at CenturyLink Field (10 pm ET, ESPN/UniMas, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). And Dempsey seemed to feel better about the situation.
“I’d rather play on real grass over turf than to play on turf,” the US captain said at Monday’s press conference. “But the ball rolls good. It felt fine playing on it [at training] yesterday. We’ll get another chance to play on it today, and they’ll water the field and the ball will be moving quickly – which is important – and rolling true.”
US goalkeeper Tim Howard watched that match and says he knows what to look out for on Tuesday.
“Just making sure the seams stay together,” he told reporters after Sunday’s training session at CenturyLink. “You know, [the grass] comes in in trays. A lot of times, it kind of jells together, so you look for spots on the field that may tear up easily and try to avoid them as much as possible.”
Noted Dempsey: “The only thing that you might notice is when [the ball] bounces, it doesn’t bounce as much on the surface. But both teams will be able to play good soccer and it should make for a good game.”