BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The artificial turf field practice field at Toyota Park sits just yards away from the one made of natural grass.
But for some reason, the Chicago Fire seem to be allergic to the fake stuff.
When they head to Seattle on Saturday (10 pm ET, NBCSN), Chicago will try to break an 11-game winless streak, in which they've gone 0-9-2 on artificial turf since they won in New England on June 27th, 2010. Patrick Nyarko has some theories as to why the Fire have had such bad fortune on the surface.
“I think the style of play comes into play because not a lot of soccer can be played on those fields,” Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com. “I think we're good when we can play, you know? It's hard to adjust to the turf. I really don't think it's mental or it's gotten into our heads, I just think we haven't been able to.”
Jeff Larentowicz played on turf for five years as a member of the New England Revolution, and the Fire midfielder doesn't give much credence to the theory that some teams are better or worse on the surface.
“I feel like it kind of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if you believe in it,” Larentowicz said. “One, New England is a tough place to go and play. Seattle, Vancouver, all of these places are difficult places to play … The ground is wet, the ball moves, it does some funny things. I don't think that, even when I was in New England and I was playing on turf every week, I don't think I knew what it was going to do.
"We can't think about that, we just have to push through those type of things. No team is a great turf team. Nobody says, 'Oh, they're a great turf team.' That's why I feel like, on the flip side, you begin to believe your own hype that you can't win on turf.”
But Larentowicz hasn't gone through the nine Fire losses on plastic. Nyarko, who was a member of the Fire for all of those games, contends that there's something to the streak, even though he thinks Chicago can break it on Saturday.
“It's just something that we need to overcome,” he said. “It's not mental. We don't go there and say, 'Oh, we struggle on turf, there we go again.' It's just not happened. We're confident going in there this weekend.”
Anthony Zilis covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com.