The Yankee Stadium ground crew works furiously on the temporary infield grass at halftime. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — In a scoreless draw that left New York City FC winless after its opening five matches this season, there certainly weren’t many highlights for home team.
Perhaps the most memorable moments were produced by the Yankee Stadium ground crew, which tried to fix the field during the game and when we say during the game, we mean during game action.
While NYCFC was on the attack toward the outfield end of the baseball park late in the first half, a member of the grounds crew worked on part of the temporary grass that was placed over the infield. It appeared he was trying to pound some loose sod into the ground. When play headed toward the first-base side of the field, the crew member left the pitch as to not interfere with the action.
Many observers said it was the worst condition they had seen the field, although players wouldn’t blame the field on New York City FC’s scoreless draw with the Montreal Impact.
“It was terrible, but I don’t want to blame the pitch,” New York City FC defender Anton Tinnerholm said after his team’s scoreless draw with the Montreal Impact. “We need to find a way, whether the pitch is [crap] or the pitch is good.”
Of course, no one was going to blame the field for whatever happened, but it certainly gave City and even the league a black eye. NYCFC is the only club among the 24 MLS teams that play on a baseball field. The rest play in soccer-specific stadiums or American gridiron football stadiums.
“It’s not a good pitch,” Montreal head coach Remi Garde said. “It’s a shame that good players like there were on the field today on both sides cannot play good football.”
For the record, this reporter counted the grounds crew working on the field three times. Once came during a stoppage in play in the 40th minute, the other a few minutes later and the third time at halftime when the crew worked furiously on one section of the field.
“It’s always difficult to play,” Impact midfielder Samuel Piette said. “It was really dry. It is really small, but it’s for both teams. We knew what we had to do avoid getting goals against us. We’re a team that try to play out of the pack [and] try to build up from the back. It’s hard here, especially with New York pressing all the time. You can’t really find your rhythm into the game.”
The temporary sod did not mix in with the rest of the field.
City captain Alex Ring suffered a swollen ankle after slipping on the infield portion about a half hour into the match.
“It hurts, unfortunately,” he said “What can I say? I can’t complain about the pitch, but it happens after 30 minutes and you play the whole game with a sore ankle, it’s not the best.”
Asked to describe the pitch, Ring, who is usually a straight-shooter, seemed to hold back his true sentiments.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the game. It was the same for Montreal. I don’t want to say too much. But everyone knows. You can see from outside of the field that it’s bad and the players can see that it’s bad and we should leave it at that.”
That went ditto for NYCFC head coach Dome Torrent, who seemed to want to lower the boom and really criticize the field, but held back his opinion.
“It was a dry field, so dry,” he said. “Today, the weather was fantastic to play soccer. It is what it is. I don’t want to talk about that. It was so dry. It is not the best way to play. When i say to my players you have to play quickly, one, two touches, they tell me, sometimes it’s not possible because when we serve the ball, it is not good. I remember last year we played on the same pitch and we were able to win many, many games. but today especially it was so so dry.”
NYCFC has called the stadium home for five seasons with no relief in sight.
Asked if he was worried as a coach when he the grass coming up, Torrent replied, “It is not an excuse for me. I need to improve my team. It’s my job. I don’t talk about that. We have many people on the club to fix this kind of situation. I don’t talk about that because we were able to win the game.
“Believe me, it is not the right time for me to talk about that.”
Like it or not, you’re probably going to hear much more about the poor condition of the Yankee Stadium infield this year and for the next few seasons.
NYCFC still hasn’t found a venue to call home in the city and as we all know it usually takes two or three years to build a stadium with all the red tape in New York City.
To be continued, for sure.