September 30, 2012
A BITCH OF A PITCH?
Backe: 'We probably have the worst pitch in the league'
By Michael Lewis
|Hans Backe: "That is more concerning for the future for the next upcoming game that our pitch is absolutely terrible."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, N.J. -- Hans Backe did not mince his words when he spoke about the condition of the Red Bull Arena field after Saturday night's 4-1 victory over Toronto FC.
"We probably have the worst pitch in the league," the Red Bulls coach said.
No one asked Backe about the condition of the field. He brought it up himself while answering the last question of the post-match press conference.
With another important encounter against the Chicago Fire at RBA on Saturday, Backe was worried about another match just around the corner.
"That is more concerning for the future for the next upcoming game that our pitch is absolutely terrible," he said.
Since it was the final question of the press conference, Backe never got an opportunity to elaborate.
A new field was laid down after the Aug. 19 match against Portland. With the Red Bulls not playing at home for exactly a month -- Sept. 19 against Sporting Kansas City, it was hoped that the grass would take to the ground. Apparently, not all of it has.
Needless to say, some players have slipped on the grass, while divots have been left.
While no player was as critical as Backe, there definitely were concerns.
"It wasn't easy," midfielder Dax McCarty said. "It's very slippery. even if you're wearing studs or not wearing studs, you try and make a hard cut a whole patch of turf comes up. I don't know how many times today I was replanting divots and trying to step on them and get them back down. Those are things you have to deal with. You never want the field to be a factor, especially at Red Bull Arena, which is always a good field."
Midfielder Jan Gunnar Solli, who came on as a late-match sub on Saturday, disagreed with Backe, but admitted there were issues with the turf.
"I don't feel it's the worst field," he said. "But it's not a good thing when you're slipping and slipping. I see some of the guys not wearing studs. It's definitely a challenge. I don't mind slipping a little bit if we win 4-1 every game."
Of all the players interviewed after the game, only one gave it a green thumb's up -- team captain and striker Thierry Henry, although he admitted there were some problems.
"It was great, I have to say, although at times the grass has been popping out," he said. "I don't know if you see, the grass at times has been popping out. Every time we had to put it back, but definitely it was great."
Australian international midfielder Tim Cahill, who has traveled the world playing in World Cup qualifiers in Asia and Oceania, said he has seen worse.
"It was hard," he said of the field. "It is was it as. It's a great stadium, a great pitch. I've played on a lot worse overseas so I can't really complain. I supposed it beats playing on turf."
Yes, the alternative is a lot worse -- artificial turf, on which the Red Bulls played at Gillette Stadium in their 1-1 draw at New England last week.
Asked if he rather play on the fake stuff, Solli replied, "No. no, no. I want to play on this field. I love this arena. I know they have the challenge and they are probably working as good as they can. They probably put on some heat on the grass to grow a little more because that is a challenge here. These guys who are handling the field are also professionals. Sometimes its tough. I'm sure it's frustrating as well.
"I agree, it is soft. It can be very challenging. I definitely 10,000 times more play here than on a hard turf and the feeling that you have to look for your groin when you're finished."
Many players agreed it will improve with time.
"They just laid it down about a month ago," right back Brandon Barklage said. "That is to be expected. Hopefully, it will get better for the playoff push."