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USMNT Notes: Temporary grass not a major problem for squad on eve of Panama qualifier


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SEATTLE – One of the more glorious aspects of holding Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier between the U.S. Men’s National Team and Panama at CenturyLink Field is the expected turnout from the U.S. faithful. It is anticipated that more than 36,000 fans will be on hand to watch the CONACAF clash and while that number may not be as high as some around the country expected, it will still be, by and large, the largest pro-U.S. crowd the Americans have played in front of for a World Cup qualifier in quite some time.

What seemingly will not be anywhere near as glorious will be the field.

A temporary sod surface was placed over the turf pitch that is usually played on at CenturyLink Field days ago and it looked worse for wear on Sunday, appearing dry, uneven and full of divots. The field was watered and in better condition prior to the U.S. team’s training session on Monday afternoon, but several players seemed to have no real issue with the surface regardless of how it felt and how much of a talking point it has become among media and fans.

“Me, personally, I’d rather play on turf if it was my choice but I never had a problem with these fields in the past,” said midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who could potentially start in place of Graham Zusi (yellow card accumulation) or Jermaine Jones (concussion) on Tuesday night. “We’ve done this a lot when we’ve played at Giants Stadium, whether it was against Argentina or Brazil in the past. Look at the end of the day, it’s 22 guys all on the same field and we all have to get used to it and be ready for it so it really makes no difference to me.”

While the condition of the field may not bother a veteran like Kljestan who has been through several matches like these, not every player on the U.S. squad has experienced a game on a grass field that sits on top of a turf surface.

Foreign-based players who are relatively new to the team like Fabian Johnson, Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona all admitted to the field being different than what they are used to. The ball does not move exactly the same as it does on the pristine grass fields that litter stadiums in the German Bundesliga or on the type of turf surfaces like the one Castillo and Corona play on in their home games with Club Tijuana, and it also doesn’t bounce the same.

Needless to say, some of the U.S. players are still adjusting.

“It’s a lot different,” said Johnson. “When you run fast and you step, you kind of feel when the whole grass is moving. It’s just different. When the pitch is wet, I think they’re going to wet it tomorrow before the game and halftime, it’s going to be fast, but when the ball bounces, it’s just dead. We’re going to prepare for that.”

“It doesn’t bounce, it doesn’t bounce,” said Castillo. “It feels a little weird, but we’ll be good. We trained yesterday and we know it doesn’t bounce, (the field is) going to be wet. It’s going to be a little difficult but we’ll be good.”

“There’s not a lot of bounce, I can tell you that from yesterday’s practice,” said Corona. “It’s a nice field, but Panama doesn’t really know the field so we’ve got to take advantage of all that.”

Some of the Americans may still be adapting to the pitch, but that will not serve as an excuse if they fail to pick up three points on Tuesday. After all, most of Panama’s players are not used to it either and this is still a home game for the U.S.

“I’d rather play on real grass over turf than to play on turf, but the ball rolls good and … they’ll water the field and the ball will be moving quickly and rolling true,” said captain Clint Dempsey. “The only thing you might notice is that when it bounces, it doesn’t bounce as much on the surace but botht eams will be able to play good soccer and it should make for a good game.”


  • Fabian Johnson is one of the more versatile players the U.S. have and while he can serve as a right midfielder, it does not seem he will play there against Panama. “I feel more comfortable on the left side because I’m tucking into the middle,” said Johnson. “It’s easier for me to play on the left side.”
  • Edgar Castillo, a candidate to start in midfield due to the absence of Zusi out wide, provided a couple of the funnier moments before Monday’s training session. Castillo first touched on playing as a left midfielder like he did in a brief cameo off the bench in last Friday’s 2-1 win vs. Jamaica by admitting his fondness for playing there: “When I came (on) against Jamaica, I felt good and I like the position; I don’t have to defend much,” said Castillo. “I’m good wherever I get to play.”
  • Castillo was then asked about the play of Panamanian centerback Felipe Baloy, who he has gone up against in Liga MX. Castillo was complimentary of Baloy but to an extent: “He’s a good defender but all he does is hit and hit all game, and he’s going to talk bad stuff to you but we’ll be good.”


  1. Sounders fans:

    Demand real grass! This is travesty! Football must never be played on turf.

    Every time I try watching a Sounders home game, I am forced to turn the TV off after about 10 minutes due to the horrific turf and the ridivuouls bounces of the ball. No excuses! Put real grass on that field.

    • Can’t unless we have our own stadium. NFL + MLS at the same time would mean just flat out mud. I don’t think you would have one person say they want turf over grass up here, but we would need our own stadium and I think people like CenturyLink > the real grass want. The stadium is great and loud and in reality, there is no room by the other stadiums downtown to put one. We could maybe put one by the Space Needle, but that would still be a lot and they aren’t about to tear down Key Arena and I think are turning Memorial Stadium into an amphitheater. Can’t get public money for it, we have laws against it (complicated laws about how much can go into publicly funded stadiums) and when you have a group who wants an NBA team and to build a privately funded stadium, the city wont cough it up. It will be a while before the SSS thing really gets rolling as it would have to be land purchased by ownership and stadium built by ownership.

  2. The hate about Seattle fans not showing up is simply misinformed. The attendance will end up being around 40k which puts it in the top 10 of WCQ for the USMNT I believe. It can’t even go beyond 42k cause of the cap put on it. Also I know alot of Sounders fans were somewhat shocked by the ticket price, not a great excuse for the fans but the pricing is a bit off. If the USSF is serious about getting big numbers price the tickets more reasonably at all venues.

    • US Soccer knows a thing or two about big numbers. It’s why your 40K non-sellout will be about 60th on the all time attendance list.

      A game against Russia at the Kingdome in the 90s drew more than this will. No excuse for no sell out.

      Most WCQs have been held in smaller out of the way stadiums or SSS over the years.

      the medium size RFK stadium has held a huge number of WCQs and consistently hits high 40s and low 50s–several thousand over capacity. For years.

  3. I watched the highlights of Sounders-Whitecaps at the MLS web site. I didn’t really notice any difference except that there seemed to be a lot of chunks of turf. I actually think a slightly slower field helps the US with their passing.

      • I’d rather have 25k+ packed into Crew Stadium on a real pitch than watch some farce in Yuppieville USA. I really think it’s great that Sounders get huge attendance numbers but I can’t stand all the clamoring how it’s the new home of US soccer. No chance and while 40k+/- wil be nice tonight, The talk will be about the turf and will overshadow the attendance – which by all accounts pre annoucement of Yuppieville getting a game was it surely going to be a sellout and the biggest US WCQ game ever (not happening). See you all in C-bus for Mexico. 🙂

  4. Are they playing on a sub-par surface in Seattle to prepare for the bad fields in Central America? We always complain about those fields and how they put the US at a disadvantage. So at a home game they get the same thing. What’s next — playing on gridiron lines to confuse the opponent?

  5. I like Castillo’s comment about Baloy. I hope he lets his emotions get the best of him tonight and he commits lots of fouls. He owned us last time we played them. I hope Klinsmann is ready for this.

  6. This is the first qualifier Seattle has had in over 30 years. So it is the first for anyone my age. Where are all the Seattle Sounder fans? I just don’t get it.

    • $60 minimum per ticket after ticketmaster fees unless you go through AO. My $35 Sounders tickets were $75 without fees (equivalent seat now is $94 after taxes). Not everyone can pay that for a 4 day period. There are very few seats under $70 right now.

      • I checked last week and it looked like most of the tickets that were still unsold were between $200-$345. Can anyone shed more light on that?

      • Wow. If thats true then someone needs to take a long hard look at why. Even assuming I could afford that, I just dont know if I could justify paying that. Then consider you’d at least need 2, probly more. Seattle and US soccer should lower prices to build the fanbase, then raise it later if there is demand. Basic business.

    • Go look at the differences in the prices for the game in SLC on Friday. The endline in SLC is $48 and MF $95. I believe the MF seats in Seattle are at least $125.
      My seats in the Hawks nest were $60 plus fees, my season tickets in the second row behind the goal is only $18.
      Having gone to the El Salvador game last time around in SLC, in which there were empty seats and the crowd was at best 50/50, I think we are doing ok.
      If it were a Friday I am guessin they would have had no problem getting to 40K even with the higher prices, because more people would have been willing to drive up from PT.

    • Weekend vs weekday game counts a lot, many Sounders fans make long commutes.

      Evans will know how the sod plays, it’s not good, keeping your feet will be difficult. Conor Casey ruptured Achilles on this sod a couple years ago.

  7. ‘Give us a qualifier, give us a qualifier, GIVE US A QUALIFIER!!!!!!!’

    Because only 36,000 people show up just a week after 60,000+ showed up for an MLS game.

    • The decision to cap the attendance at CL is due to the fact that across the parking lot, the Mariners have a scheduled home game. The big question will be, which game (Soccer Vs. Baseball) will have the larger attendance numbers?

      • M’s vs Astros. Not even 8k will go to the Mariners. They keep hitting record attendance lows and to go against one of the worst teams in baseball during the week, it isn’t even a contest.

      • But doesn’t this make USSF look even dumber? Baseball schedule was out a long time ago and it was boneheaded to schedule a WC qualifier in Seattle, which had attendance restrictions because of baseball game. There were plenty of places, where the USMNT could have played on real grass with no cap on attendance.

  8. Found this quote from Bradley–wow the pitch must be awful.

    “Look, clearly there are a lot of things that go into making these decisions. Seattle certainly deserves a game, but I think the field unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired.”

    • This makes me ****** furious. Furious. Seattle should never see another match unless they find a SSS with real grass.

      This could directly affect our ability to play and it really helps Panama.

    • This makes me ****** furious. Furious. Seattle should never see another match unless they find a SSS with real gr@ss.

      This could directly affect our ability to play and it really helps Panama.

      • No. Panama will be way off tonight because Blas Perez is injured.
        Our guys will compensate by lofting their passes rather than play the ball on the grass. It’ll be like a match in pouring rain where the turf is taken out by water.

  9. Fans not showing up. Field being destroyed.

    Nice job Seattle. Way to take our two biggest advantages and crumple them up and toss them.

    • Not showing up? What are you talking about? This will be the biggest crowd in 4 years and may crack the top 10 WCQ for the US. #10 was 37,319 at Arrowhead. Just because we didn’t hit 42k doesn’t mean we wont show up. Seattle has a lot of transplants and with inflated prices, I am not shocked at the numbers, they are still pretty damn good.

    • A guy from US Soccer said they had sold between 38 and 39K yesterday afternoon I expect the game to have at least 40K…and the cap off is at 42 because there is a Mariners game a few blocks away with like 25-30K fans… could see why the crowd is smaller….it is a Tuesday and also there are only so many sports fans in Seattle with disposable income for entertainment in sports….if 40K show up everyone should just be quite

      • Actually the M’s are across the street and last time the Astros were in town they had 8500 through the gates. That will hurt it some, but not that much. No matter what, 40k is damn good

    • Not showing up? Well that is an ignorant comment. Yes it isn’t quite as big as a lot of people were hoping for but it’ll still be around 40k

  10. Seriously, when is CONCACAF going to set some sort of serious standard for the pitches that these guys play on. That Honduras pitch was awful. Ditto Jamaica. Now same problem here in the US. It is one of my least favorite things about these matches, the players don’t like, the fans don’t like it, they need to do something about it.

  11. I don’t think the players have any choice from an attitude or line-toeing perspective but to say something upbeat before the game about the surface. Even if you don’t like the surface it does them little good to complain now, they’re professionals. However, on a basic level, a field where the ball doesn’t bounce or react normal is a joke, even if the players don’t think it wise to say it. I don’t even like this for cash grab friendlies but for qualis it’s a joke.

  12. Not sure where to ask this question so my apologies that this is not about the turf in Seattle. While I would like nothing more the be in the Emerald City to watch tonight’s game, alas I am stuck on the other side of the country in Albany, NY. Anyone know of any good places to watch the game in the central district/near the State Capitol?

    • Ha! Exactly Chris, they developed a strain of grass (Kentucky bluegrass and California sensimilla maybe?) that prohibits the ball from bouncing. It’s like anti gravity grass. Go figure that an LSU fan won’t read an article.

  13. Michael Bradley: “Seattle certainly deserves a game, but I think the field, unfortunately, leaves a lot to be desired.”

    Seattle supporters had better show up. Tickets are 4x more than a Sounder game and it looks like 35,000 are expected. If they do, their support can outweigh all the negatives of hosting a game in the Northwest (travel, field/injury risk, late kickoff, etc.). If not the PNW may have to wait for another WCQ.

    • Travel to SLC is almost as bad (maybe an hour and a half, 2 tops more). Late kickoff? Reliant stadium used to have 8:00 CST kickoffs – later locally and not that much later for the east coast which is who I’m assuming you mean when you say late kickoff. As a Portlander, I hope this goes swimmingly for the US team and the fans show up in raucous support. Hopefully Paul Allen – the erstwhile owner that he is – can open his eyes and install a surface akin to Oregon at Autzen Stadium. Excellent field turf and I’m sure there is a soccer equivalent. Grass may be what all desire but ultimately these owners know the bigger leagues butter their bread and the maintenance is a lot more for grass in the Cascadia climate.

  14. Edgar castillo, who i played against him in las cruces, nm and in el paso, tx back in the day,was never a defender. Edgar loves to attack and score since he played attacking mid and even foward in his days,but after moving from santos torreon he then became a defender, since he had no choice and make a team. But i repeat, edgar is not a defender and will never be, in ligamx they made him a defender and he has no choice. He had speed, left footer, he has creative skills and vision, hopefully one day he fights for his real position. The funny thing, ever since i know him, he has been on the thin side and maybe if he gains some pounds, managers then will make him an attacking mid or foward. If anyone talks to him out there, ask him abiut the las cruces strikers vs el paso santos games or chivas vs dragons on sunday city league.

    • I can see him wanting to attack, for sure. That’s what makes him good, from what little I’ve seen of him: He will run towards the opponents penalty box with obvious intentions of seeing the balon displace the net. And attacking defenders are often what differentiates teams at the international level.

  15. “What seemingly will not be anywhere near as glorious will be the field.”

    This is why, arguably our most rabid fan base, shouldn’t host matches. This is ridiculous.

    Until Seattle gets their own SSS or lays down permanent grass, SKC remains as the true “best” home grounds for the Nats taking into account everything that matters: quality of pitch, SSS, amazing fan base, PRO-American fan base, etc, etc.

    • The fact that the grass is moving is a bit scary. Knees buckle and tears happen on these kinds of pitches.

      If the USSF doesn’t watch it, we’re going to get reported to FIFA. First a team is forced to play during a blizzard with five inches on the field. Now a team has to play on moving grass. Playing in the US is the new “worst field/atmosphere in the hemisphere.”

      It’s like they’re playing Putt Putt Soccer.

    • Exactly. At some point, people will stop complaining about the new artificial surfaces (like the one normally installed in Century Link) and just accept that these are great surfaces to play on.

      They do not present additional injury risks. They play well in all types of conditions. Lots of big club teams in Europe use these surfaces to practice on and some of them use it in games.

      It’s part of the future of soccer surfaces and (basically) all the people who cry over not having perfectly groomed grass fields just need to get over it. CONCACAF should just man up and require all members to have at least one high quality artificial surface field available at all times for FIFA-sanctioned tournament play. No team should have to play on the abysmal grass surfaces found in Central America and the Caribbean. Or even on a temporary grass field in Century Link when there is a perfectly good surface just 4 inches below the temporary one.

    • it’s pretty ridiculous. the us national team should only be playing on true grass fields, these are our top players and we need to do whatever it takes to make them the best they can be.

      Clink should have real grass, NFL does it too so why can’t the seahawks/sounders

      • Because there are a host of teams that don’t have real grass – St Louis, Houston, Seattle and Met Life just to name a few. Truth is, these fields play very similar to grass. If a knee injury happens on grass, why isn’t it questioned like turf is? As a UO alum and fan, the field at University of Phoenix stadium, an honest to God real grass field, played like ice for the first half because they watered it. The Clink turf would play better and those who say otherwise are either stodgy and set in their ways or myopic.

      • Why only 38k? Are they not opening the top of Century Link? I’m sorry but with the turf being such an issue the only way you should have a game there is if you can make sure that building is filled to the gills. I don’t care what team in CONCACAF it is, that would be intimidating.

      • I think they didn’t open up the entire stadium in part because there is a Seattle Mariners baseball game at the same time next door. It’s going to be crazy down there!

  16. “I felt good and I like the position; I don’t have to defend much,” said Castillo.

    Well, with that attitude, get him in the game!



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