Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Ha! Ha. Cough. Oh.

Steven Goff of the Washington Post has this quote from David Beckham about the teams in MLS with FieldTurf.

"There is one major thing that should actually change. I don't know whether I am being too controversial, but I think the fact that there are four or five teams with FieldTurf. As professional athletes, you can't play a game like soccer on that sort of field. The reaction of players and what it does to your body, as a soccer player, you [need] two or three days off for that. Every game, every team should have grass, without a doubt. You can't ask any athlete to perform at a high level on the FieldTurf."

Sorry, I'm just amused.

FieldTurf, I don't like it myself, but it's a fact of life in modern soccer today. Granted, most MLS teams that play on it right now do it as a temporary measure. The Revs, RSL and Red Bulls all say they want real grass in their permanent stadiums.

That's why to me, Canada was the danger point - a brand-new stadium installing FieldTurf? That's the apocalypse, right there. Yet for all the events they have scheduled for that venue, it was decided that was the most practical solution.

Yet a great Canadian striker, Tomas Radzinski, is possibly staying away from Toronto just on that basis. He told Ante Jazic that he despises artificial surfaces. Claudio Reyna really dislikes them as well. Now Beckham's against them.

Part of me thinks, "SUCK it up, guys. You knew that stuff was there when you joined the league."

On the other hand, I think about how many teams are missing out on perhaps getting good players on their fields because of the surface. Cobi Jones, in his final year in the league, may not play on any FieldTurf fields, because they affect him so much. Radz is avoiding signing with the league altogether, while David seems to want to avoid the turf games. If players don't play well in matches following turf games because they're beat up from that, it can only negatively affect the overall quality.

That doesn't seem like a bright idea at all. It's not just idealistically wanting grass, it's wanting a higher-level product in MLS. The turf could well be dragging that down.

19 comments:

Eric PZ said...

I wonder if Becks knows what surface he'll be playing on when England play Russia in a couple months?

Anonymous said...

Although FieldTurf is a better surface than the old "astro" turf, the effects of playing on such a surface every week has been shown to lead to substantially more joint injuries in professional football players (with the oblong ball). I wouldn't risk an established career playing on that crap!

Anonymous said...

I think it's only a matter of time before Garber declares playing surfaces to be "Beckham-ready."

Paul said...

ol' anonymous brings up a question that I have: why do soccer players complain about the effects of playing on FieldTurf more than (American) football players? (And I don't believe it is because soccer players are weak or sissies or frail.) The way the game changes because of the surface--with different physics from an artificial rather than natural field--should not impact the players; and FieldTurf has never been a complaint for other sports as well.

Also, I would like to see some of the studies that link FieldTurf to increased injuries--not because I doubt this fact, but because fans like myself have basically assumed that the surface is reasonably safe and did not produce the rash of injuries caused by astro turf. I've walked on the stuff, and it seems that the surface isn't all that different from grass; the composition of FieldTurf, mainly from recycled tires, appears to have the consistency of a moderately wet lawn--some give, with a normal cut for sports. (Here the field experienced was for football.) Or is the "grass" part of the turf too long for soccer?

Anonymous said...

Although it may feel the same, you can easily see that the behavior of the ball is different. When players put spin on the ball (intentionally or not) the field sometimes emphasizes/deemphasizes the spin. So lobs over the top, passes to the corner, and less that "perfect" passes seem to have a mind of their own. A player with great touch looks mediocre and a player with so-so touch looks awful. The game looks ugly and out of control. In the U-20 worlds I saw players get caught up just trying to roll the ball with their foot while getting started. That fraction of a second to get the ball back in control made a huge difference in how fast a defender put pressure on them.

John

Brian said...

FieldTurf Article

Somewhere is another report that talks about the amount of force required to turn your foot. Fieldturf and grass were similar if you were standing on the balls of your feet, but if your entire foot is in contact with the ground significantly more force was required to turn your foot on Fieldturf. So during a turn or cut you could end up putting a lot of force on your leg joints or muscles that normally wouldn't happen on grass.

I actually experienced this last month. I was playing on Fieldturf and my calves were tired from weight lifting so I was running more flat footed than normal. I ended up twisting my knee and having to walk with crutches for four days. I was wearing turf shoes. Next game will be with flats so I'll slip before I twist my knee.

As for football vs. soccer differences? I'd guess it's a combinations of things. Soccer players run and cut more on average. Run at higher speeds. Play more games during hotter weather (heat appears to be a factor according the URL at the top). Play more games so less time to recover. Their uniforms don't provide as much protection against burns as well.

Anonymous said...

Living in Portland, I play year-round almost 75% of the time on artificial surfaces. Some are better than others.

A couple of things to note, Field-Turf when brand new plays much better and is better to play on than a lot of grass fields. After a few years the field hardens up and plays much faster than normal.

When it rains during games, which is often in Portland, the artificial stuff can't be beat, the traction, footing and drainage are amazing in the most wicked of downpours.

Injuries. Well, the skin on my knees are permanently hashed and scarred from Field Turf. I have big dark permanent patches on my knees from pretty bad turf burns from sliding/collisions. The burns get infected and take forever to heal and sting like crazy for weeks.

Other common symptons on artificial surfaces is your joints are twice as achey after games, if it is an intense physical game, so recovery is a bit more. I think it depends on speed, intensity and age. For young U-10 thru U-16, it's just fine. For 200 lbs'ers colliding full speed, it takes a toll. That's my unscientific analysis.

One more thing, Field Turf is awful in 85 degree plus weather, you get exhausted from heat radiating and your shoes are on fire for 90minutes.

I guess I have to agree with Becks, there is no reason pros should play on it unless weather is a major factor and MLS is a summer league so it shouldn't be.


BBSC

Anonymous said...

In response to Pigskin Football vs. Soccer on Field Turf.

I agree, American football players love the stuff more than soccer players for reasons already posted nicely by John.

American football is played in between the hash marks often in the middle of the field. The footing is awesome and you slip less, sure footing is a major plus for them. I would think it has to do with the nature of their game.

They can practice on their field day and night in all weather and get the same exact footing.

Soccer is more like golf, the harder and faster the greens the worse your going to put. For long drives it's harder to pin point an exact touch. I guess that's why Becks dislikes it.

BBSC

Anonymous said...

Toronto could have built their field similar to the university dome in Phoenix Arizona. I believe it has a retractable field where they can place a grass field for events or retract it and use the field turf field. Being that Toronto's stadium is publicly own and they intented it to be a place that held a lot of events the retractable field seems like a reasonable option. A roof would not have hurt in Toronto either.

Gene said...

When I played on a youth team as a kid, part of the practices was on the field turf / astroturf. It was somewhat harder to run on and when you went into a sliding tackle, you got serious skin burns.

Now, at that level, no one gave a shit about the turf. Even as an adult, if you are playing on an amateur team once a week, you can suck it up. But I am sure that when you play on a professonal level for many games on this type of a field, it adds up.

I don't see anything wrong with Beckham mentioning this issue. It does not sound like he is saying he won't play on them. But there is no reason why he (or other players) cannot bring up the fact that this type of field is unacceptable. I think many other people have complained about the articifical turf as well.

Also, from the ball control perspective, the spin of the ball and the speed with which it travels on that surface are very different from grass. As a result, you have more passes going astray and you need more time to control a ball. None of this benefits the game or the viewing pleasure of the public.

Richard said...

Toronto could have copied the stadium that the Arizona Cardinals have except for one thing: money. They didn't want to spend a lot and the quality of their stadium and field reflects it. Their stadium went up fast, and its great they have a SSS. Its just really too bad they couldnt put in real grass. The game just isnt the same on it.

Anonymous said...

Pay me Beckham money and I'll eat FieldTurf.

Siva said...

AC, I'd like to question the following line:
FieldTurf, I don't like it myself, but it's a fact of life in modern soccer today.

By "modern soccer" do you mean "modern MLS soccer" or do you mean the worldwide sport? Do you have statistics on how many fields in the Premiership or La Liga or Serie A or Bundesliga or even the Portuguese or Dutch leagues have "field turf"?

jason said...

I think this last point is right. MLS just looks bad when they have games on turf. Turf is one of the crazy things that the NASL did.

Turf has a bad feel to it for the viewer. The sound and look of aluminum bats in baseball is the best analogy I can draw.

In terms of safety and fitness, player testimony is what we ought to cite, even when the stuff seems very similar. Toronto FC has had injury problems to be sure.

Turf clubs need to have a plan that puts in grass at some time or another. It should be a hard and fast rule for new clubs.

A.C. said...

I do mean the worldside sport, but I was thinking more on the FIFA level. For example, the last U20 and U17 FIFA World Cups were played on artificial surfaces. The idea was that no one field would give certain games an advantage, because the artificial surfaces would all play the same. FIFA has also sanctioned certain artificial surfaces, such as Costa Rica's Saprissa stadium, as ok for international matches and qualifying games.

Anonymous said...

Now thats the kind of thing I don't understand it one thhing to say a cold weather place like Toronto can't grow grass well enough to substain a socer team but in Costa Rica? How in the world in a country with its own jungles are you not able to grow and maintain a grass field? FIFA shoud require that there be a specific reason for 1st Division and National teams to resort to Field Turf use.

Stanley J. said...

Just a note for A.C. In the last FIFA U-20 world cup the events were held in 6 stadiums. 3 of the stadiums were natural grass (Victoria, Burnaby, Edmonton). Your comment that "The idea was that no one field would give certain games an advantage, because the artificial surfaces would all play the same" is incorrect.

A.C. said...

In the 17 World Cup in Peru, all the stadiums were artificial, and the reason I gave was cited by organizers for that, so i refenced it here..

For Canada, the rotation of the fields and the fact that half the surfaces were artificial was cited as meaning almost every team would have to play on both surfaces, thus keeping the disadvantage, if any, more or less nuetral.

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