turf

The Fake Field Farce

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The field conditions have always been a stumbling point with World Cup qualifiers. The use of FieldTurf is frowned on, as is the laying of temporary sod that hasn’t had time to settle in.

CONCACAF might have slightly more lenient views when awarding Gold Cup matches, but as far as U.S. Soccer’s concerned, there are enough good, natural turf venues to avoid compromising its field standards. If you have fake turf, you won’t get a real World Cup qualifier.

That view may be changing slightly. As Grant Wahl’s reported, U.S. Soccer is now willing to consider fields like Portland and Seattle’s — the two highest profile FieldTurf venues — provided they carpet their fake stuff with real sod. If U.S. Soccer is confident the natural grass has time to bed in, World Cup qualifying could come to the northwest.

Unfortunately, as this debate regarding Portland and Seattle has evolved, nobody has ever paused to note this is not an actual issue. The complaints of “fake grass”or “artificial turf” are farcical when you walk Jeld-Wen Field and see how games are played. Seattle’s turf used to be a source of player complaints, but this year’s version was much improved. There’s nothing wrong with Portland or Seattle’s fields.

The issue becomes even more ludicrous when you spend a few minutes dribbling a ball on a hastily laid grass field. Seams in the surface are inevitable. Over the course of a few square yards, you’ll get uneven patches. Passes bobble. The surfaces almost never hold up under game conditions, and players are left with more complaints than if they had played on a mediocre synthetic pitch.

This is the alternative to FieldTurf?

To U.S. Soccer’s credit, they don’t seem willing to accept fields that haven’t settled, but at some point, we need to get beyond this whole real versus fake issue. As anybody who has played on good FieldTurf knows, the game may be slightly different, but the quality is the same.

And of course, slight differences in quality exist between natural grass fields. Some play like carpets thanks to the efforts of their groundkeepers. Some play too soft and are torn up within 30 minutes. Others feel rock hard and produce strange bounces. And that doesn’t even take into account the more general fast versus slow differences.

There was a time when an aversion to fake fields was natural, but we’ve evolved beyond that. Thankfully, we’re past the days when players’ career were sacrificed to save money with artificial turf. Nobody in Major League Soccer’s playing on rugs over concrete.

FieldTurf isn’t perfect, but most natural pitches have problems, too. The fake stuff has become good enough to take it fields’ quality on a case-by-case basis. While Jeld-Wen’s field may be perfectly playable, another’s synthetic instance may not.

The whole debate is a farce. We talk about real and fake fields as if they fit into two distinct groups, but when it comes to quality of play and health of the players, that’s no longer the case. Excluding venues become of FieldTurf is an antiquated notion.

While the whole U.S. Soccer vs. Portland and Seattle case is intriguing, at some point somebody should step up and note it’s all based on a fallacy. Synthetic fields aren’t inherently bad.

This isn’t the 80s.

Report: Roma lead chase for Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere

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Early on Transfer Deadline Day it seemed like Premier League duo Crystal Palace and Bournemouth were the two options for Jack Wilshere.

Not so fast.

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According to multiple reports Arsenal’s 24-year-old central midfielder is reportedly being chased hard by AS Roma with regards to a season-long loan deal.

Wilshere has expressed his desire to leave Arsenal for regular action this season and over 22 clubs have reportedly expressed interest in taking him on loan.

[ LIVE: Every Deadline Day deal ] 

That list had been whittle down to three main contenders and it is believed the England international met with Palace boss Alan Pardew and Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe on Tuesday as he decided where he should go.

Now, though, it appears a Serie A giant is pushing hard to get Wilshere.

His good friend Wojciech Szczesny is already on loan from Arsenal to Roma and with the Italian side able to offer UEFA Europa League action, plus challenge for the top four in Italy’s top-flight, Wilshere may see it as more worthwhile than going on loan to Palace or Bournemouth who will both be challenging to finish in the upper reaches of midtable in the PL.

The transfer window in Italy shuts at 5 p.m. ET, an hour earlier than in England, so Wilshere will have to get a move on if he fancies spending the next year in the Italian capital.

Report: David Luiz to Chelsea edging closer; Fabregas staying

Luiz scored on his return to the Bridge and celebrated like a mad man.
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A deal between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea for “the geezer” David Luiz appears to be back on.

[ LIVE: Every Deadline Day deal ] 

On Tuesday reports emerged that Antonio Conte‘s side had offered $39 million for 29-year-old Luiz. Bearing in mind he signed for PSG in 2014 from Chelsea for $65 million, that would be decent business for Chelsea.

PSG were said to want close to $50 million for Luiz and the deal seemed dead.

However, the Daily Mail is now reporting that the deal for Luiz is edging ever closer with the player said to be keen on a return to Stamford Bridge and the clubs are working towards and agreement.

A flashy central defender, Luiz has many question marks against his name when it comes to his defensive capabilities but he is a fans favorite at Chelsea after winning the UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League with the Blues. He can also take a wicked free kick and his impressive range of passing sees him take risks out of the back.

Chelsea do need cover in central defense with Gary Cahill and John Terry their only options, plus Branislav Ivanovic able to slot over from right back to center back. Conte does have Kurt Zouma at the club but the French international defender is likely to go out on loan to Bundesliga side Schalke to step up his recovery following a horrendous injury last February against Manchester United.

Is Luiz heading back to west London?


In other Chelsea-related news Sky Sports is reporting that Spanish international playmaker Cesc Fabregas is staying at the Bridge.

Fabregas, 29, has been linked with a move away from Chelsea this summer after starting the first three Premier League games of the season on the bench. Conte has preferred N'Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic in central midfielder and it was reported that Fabregas had fallen out with Chelsea’s new Italian manager.

The former Arsenal and Barcelona rejected speculation that he and Conte had a bust up but on Deadline Day rumors have arrived that AC Milan want to sign Fabregas.

However it appears Fabregas will be staying at Chelsea at least until January to fight for his place in the team.

Stoke City sign Wilfried Bony on loan from Manchester City

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Wilfried Bony of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Capital One Cup Quarter Final match between Manchester City and Hull City at Etihad Stadium on December 1, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Wilfried Bony is a Potter.

The Ivorian striker, 27, has joined Stoke City on a season-long loan from Manchester City after he didn’t feature in Pep Guardiola‘s plans at the Etihad Stadium.

[ LIVE: Every Deadline Day deal ]

Bony moved to Man City in January 2015 for $37 million after a breakout 18 months with Swansea City which saw him score 35 goals in 70 appearances for the Swans.

Stoke have been searching for a central striker to finish chances for the past two seasons with Marko Arnautovic, Bojan Krkic and Xherdan Shaqiri creating plenty of chances for Mark Hughes‘ side.

Bony joins Peter Crouch, Mame Diouf and Jonathan Walters as the central strikers in Stoke’s squad and his arrival seems to all but end the Potters’ long-term interest in West Brom’s Saido Berahino.

Getting Bony through the door when the likes of West Ham United and Everton were also interested is great news for Stoke as they have also added Derby County goalkeeper Lee Grant on loan and are expected to add Dutch international defender Bruno Martins Indi on loan later on Deadline Day.

Joe Hart completes move to Torino in Serie A

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 26:  Goalkeeper Joe Hart of Manchester City applauds the home fans following the 0-0 draw during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Manchester City FC and Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on April 26, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Torino have announced the signing of Joe Hart on a season-long loan from Manchester City,

Hart, 29, was seen in and around Turin on Tuesday as he arrived in Italy to seal his move to the Serie A side.

[ LIVE: Every Deadline Day deal ] 

The English national team goalkeeper has fallen behind both Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero in the pecking order at the Etihad Stadium following Pep Guardiola‘s appointment as Man City’s new manager this summer.

Guardiola believes Hart is not good enough with the ball at his feet to play in his system, so Hart has gone elsewhere.

Speaking about his move to Torino, Hart revealed his emotions on arriving in Italy’s top-flight.

“Suddenly my career has undergone a change. I interpreted it as a sign of destiny and so I had to do something,” Hart said. “The decision to come to Turin has come at the right time and in the right manner. I am very happy to be able to compete in a beautiful and difficult league like Serie A.”

So, what do we make of this move for Hart?

After spending a decade at Man City, it was clear he would only be used sparingly this season so he simply had to leave. Sunderland seemed to be his only option in the Premier League and you can’t blame him for not wanting to be embroiled in a relegation battle at the Stadium of Light.

Torino finished 12th in Serie A last season and have ambitions to finish in the top 10 this season but they aren’t playing in the UEFA Champions League or Europa League and it is strange Hart didn’t have other options. However, it is a chance for Hart to learn a new culture and play regularly to keep himself in the England setup until he sorts out his long-term future away from City. As long as Guardiola is around Hart isn’t going to play for the team he has won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups with.

Hart is a hero at Man City and always will be but with this move he has taken himself out of the firing line in England and now has a chance to play regularly and rebuild his career in Italy after becoming the first-ever English goalkeeper in Serie A.