SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Down on the list of the factors that are stacked against the Americans at Estadio Saprissa here for the World Cup qualifying game is something that stands to play a great role in the match.
While the fans’ hostility
seems the preeminent factor standing in the Americans’ way, San Jose’s
national stadium is one of the few venues to feature an artificial surface.
Such an issue could be yet another plus for the hosts and a strike against
the U.S. national team in their quest to leave Costa Rica with a victory
for the first time ever.
“At the end of the day, I
think (the surface) favors them just because of the level of comfort
come game time,” midfielder Pablo Mastroeni said.
The turf here, though, is not
exactly like the turf back home, players said.
“It was strange. Most of
the turf fields we play on in MLS are longer, the grass is longer, the
turf is longer and it’s a more even, flat surface,” midfielder Pablo
Mastroeni said. “Here you have a short stubble, almost AstroTurf-type
grass and there are a lot of rolls and bumps and it’s really uneven.
It’s almost like a bad grass field covered with turf.”
Toronto FC defender Marvell
Wynne practiced on the field Monday night with the rest of the team,
and while he said the ball did not do anything funny even by turf standards,
there is a difference between the Saprissa turf and BMO Field’s surface.
“It’s a little bit more
padded-down,” Wynne said. “The Toronto FC field is a little bit
more lengthy so it has kind of a grass look and feel.”
Saprissa’s status as unbeatable
monster might be boosted by the surface. Already, the U.S. has the atmosphere,
stadium and fans going against them; refereeing has proven unreliable
in the past here as well. The surface might just be another reason for
Costa Rica to feel confident about themselves.
At a telephone press conference, coach Bob Bradley weighed in on the issue. “The
players will tell you that the game is not the same on artificial turf.
We’ve been very fortunate in the United States to have good options
when it comes to places to play our games, and I think we always feel
that the game is best on a very good natural surface.
"The game on
artificial turf depends on a few things, one is the quality of that
turf. Is it old? Is it new? How hard is it? The second factor is, is
the turf dry? Has it been wet down? Is it raining? These are all things
that affect the speed of the game, the bounces, it affects how much
give there is in terms of players, when they’re cutting or going to the
Since both teams must play on the same surface, it might be something that
plays little role in the match.
“Being on turf is so much
different than being on grass,” Wynne said. “It’s always good
to go out there and get a little feel of what you’re going to be playing
on in the game. I suppose the more we play on it the better, the more
we get used to it, the more comfortable we’re going to feel on the
ball, the more comfortable we feel on the ball the more passes we complete,
and so on and so forth.”
Then, of course, there are
those other factors Bradley mentioned. The weather, for instance, could play a role in the game.
Although the rain has not come down here late Monday or through midday
Tuesday, June is the early part of Costa Rica’s rainy season – the
Green Season as Costa Rican tourism officials refer to it.
“If the pitch is wet it’s
going to be a very fast ground,” Wynne cautioned. Ultimately, though, the U.S.
will try and minimize the effects of the turf on the players.
“At some point, in the first
10-15 minutes – and hopefully these two training sessions that we
(will) have had here – will be enable us to feel more comfortable
on the field,” Mastroeni said, “and we’ll realize that there are
certain passes, certain plays that happen on grass that won’t be able
to happen on turf.”
Luis Bueno, Goal.com
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