SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis criticized the Columbus Crew Stadium field last week after the first leg CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. But it was clear on Monday that the Rio Tinto Stadium field will have its own issues ahead of the second leg on Tuesday night (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer Channel, concacaf.com).
On the eve of the decisive matchup both teams trained for one hour on the game field, which had its protective tarp removed Monday morning following another dose of snow in Salt Lake City.
While Kreis praised his grounds crew for their work on the surface, the RSL manager did admit that, “It’s bare in a quite few spots and bad in some other spots.” His hope was that after the two Monday practices it “should be flat and at least play very fast.”
Columbus Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers was not as kind.
“You play on bad fields and good fields,” Rogers told MLSsoccer.com. “I think our field last week is a little bit better than this field that we trained on today. But I’m not going to complain. I’m just happy to be playing outside.”
Rogers was referring to the fact that his team’s last practice in Columbus on Saturday took place at the Ohio State University’s indoor football facility.
“Clearly, it’s not in the best of conditions,” said Crew right back Sebastian Miranda. “The weather is tough, as it is in Columbus. At this time of year, you can’t expect the fields to be good and, as a player, you have to be above these things.”
The Real Salt Lake players indicated that one big difference from last week’s match at Crew Stadium is the absence of ice on the grass. RSL playmaker Javier Morales said that the ice was so hard in spots last week that the studs on his cleats failed to penetrate. Left back Chris Wingert says he used studs for Monday’s practice and confirmed the footing was “not too bad.”
Ice will not be a concern for the second leg, with weather forecasts calling for dry but cold conditions (36 degrees) through game time on Tuesday. The underground heating system at Rio Tinto Stadium would have taken care of any icy patches, which Kreis said was an improvement over Crew Stadium.
“I think our field should play better than that one,” the RSL coach said after practice.
However, Columbus manager Robert Warzycha was not about to get embroiled in any controversy over the field a little more than 24 hours before his team’s CONCACAF Champions League hopes were to be decided.
“I have a lot of respect for the guys taking care of the fields,” Warzycha said. “They’re doing whatever they can to make sure that the field we play on is in the best condition. That’s what the groundskeeper in Columbus did and that’s why our field was voted the best field in MLS [last year].
“I think the guys here are doing the same. They’re trying to make the best field that you can possibly play on. I can’t have any complaints.”
</p><p><em><strong>Make sure to download the <a href="http://www.mlssoccer.com/extratime" target="_blank">latest episode of ExtraTime Radio</a>, featuring Columbus Crew defender Andy Iro on the CONCACAF Champions League series and ESPN's Allen Hopkins discussing Shalrie Joseph and his role with the New England Revolution. </strong></em></p><p><strong><em><a href="http://www.mlssoccer.com/extratime" target="_blank"><img src="http://saltlake-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/mp6/Iro-banner.jpg" alt="" width="620" height="100" /></a><br /></em><em></em></strong></p>