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.

Premier League AT HALF: Newcastle, Liverpool, Brighton lead

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Relegation scraps are on the menu this Saturday as a trio of bonafide six-pointers dot the docket

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

The lone top-end contender in action, Liverpool, has already opened up a lead at Anfield.

Bournemouth 0-2 Newcastle United

Ex-Cherries man Matt Ritchie has been lively for his new club, and assisted Dwight Gayle‘s effort to put Newcastle up, and Gayle doubled the advantage at the break when he tapped Ayoze Perez’s pass home.

Liverpool 1-0 West Ham United

The Irons have offered little in the final third aside from a Marko Arnautovic miss, and Emre Can nodded a back post corner kick besides Adrian to open the scoring at Anfield.

Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 Swansea City

Glenn Murray‘s penalty kick went right down Main Street to boost the Gulls hopes of a home win.

West Brom 0-0 Huddersfield Town

Not much going in this relegation scrap.

Burnley 0-0 Southampton

Cagey as expected, with the Clarets aiming to control dangerous but finish-challenged Saints.

Watch Live: Five Premier League games at 10am ET

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Five Premier League games are coming your way at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and you can watch them all live online.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Liverpool host West Ham, Brighton and Swansea clash in a massive game at the bottom, while Bournemouth welcome Newcastle to the South Coast, Burnley host Southampton and West Brom play Huddersfield Town.

The big team news from United’s game is that Paul Pogba has been dropped to the bench and so have several other first team regulars following their defeat at Tottenham Hotspur in midweek.

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You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for all five games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Ham United – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Newcastle United – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton vs. Swansea City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Huddersfield Town – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]

Leicester City 1-1 Stoke City: Foxes fight back

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  • Butland own goal rescues point for Leicester
  • Shaqiri’s third goal in three games have Stoke lead
  • Potters remain in bottom three

Leicester City fought back to draw 1-1 with Stoke City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, with an own goal from Jack Butland in the second half canceling out Xherdan Shaqiri‘s opener.

Stoke took the lead just before half time with a beauty from Shaqiri but after Butland misjudged a cross to knock the ball into his own net, Leicester came alive and hit the post twice late on.

With the draw Leicester momentarily move up to seventh place on 36 points, while Stoke remain in 19th place on 26 points and are without an away win since October.

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A cagey start to proceedings in the sun saw Riyad Mahrez and Badou Ndiaye both go close from distance as Leicester had plenty of corner kicks but couldn’t get behind a solid Stoke defense.

Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy launched counter attacks when they could but the Algerian was off target on a few occasions as Claude Puel‘s men toiled without much reward in the afternoon sun.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Stoke then delivered a hammer blow just before half time as Shaqiri picked up a pass from Joe Allen, drove towards the Leicester defense and curled home his third goal in as many games to give the Potters a half time lead.

A perfect opening 45 minutes for Lambert’s side as Shaqiri had his seventh goal of the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the second half Leicester battled back into the game but Stoke almost went 2-0 up as Kasper Schmeichel‘s loose pass found Shaqiri and his long-range effort skipped just wide of an empty net.

The Foxes were then gifted a way back into the game as Albrighton’s powerful cross from the right was towards Vardy and although the English striker didn’t touch the ball, he did enough to put off Butland as the ball hit him and went into his own net to make it 1-1.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Energized by the equalizer Leicester battered the Stoke goal as Butland saved superbly from Mahrez, then Vardy drilled an effort across goal which found Harry Maguire who hit the post with a shot.

Late on Charlie Adam‘s backward header let Mahrez race clear but a combination of Butland and Kurt Zouma kept him out and from the resulting corner Matty James hit the post with a header.

VIDEO: Thirsty goalkeeper concedes bizarre goal

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Rule number one for a goalkeeper: always pay attention to the action if you’re going to take a swig from your water bottle in the net.

Duisburg goalkeeper Mark Flekken didn’t pay attention and he will see this clip played over and over again as he conceded a bizarre goal in the German second tier against Ingolstadt.

Take a look at the video below to see the unbelievable scenes as the commentary team sum it up best with  their stunned reaction.