In the wake of Seattle, is it too soon to rekindle The FieldTurf Conversation?

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SEATTLE — At some point, we’re going to have this debate. Why not now? Because if we don’t talk it out now, we’ll just put it off. Again. And then next time a Pacific Northwest match is suggested, everybody will forget the lessons of Seattle, fall back on the old arguments, and we’ll either have another game on an unacceptable surface or another 36-year gap between Seattle qualifiers.

The main lesson from this process: Temporary grass is terrible. If this was 1994 and groundskeepers had months to cultivate the grass and were able to lay it weeks ahead of time, this would be a different discussion. That’s the process that can’t happen in the middle of a qualifying cycle, nor it is worth it. If you want to play on grass in Seattle, you’re going to have to sacrifice field quality.

I know, last night everybody was saying the right things, giving the Seattle ground crew the respect they deserved. Whomever worked on that field over the last week took if from “oh my God, why” to “well, this could work.” It was the grounds keeping equivalent to reconstructive surgery, and the operation was successful.

But you saw the players slipping around, whether it was Geoff Cameron flopping onto his hip in the middle of the field or Carlos Rodriguez falling face-first near the byline after sprinting past Brad Evans. And if you saw Saturday’s Sounders-Whitecaps game, a match where neither team had a chance to train on the newly laid surface, you witnessed two teams who couldn’t come into the match for 10 to 15 minutes, after which both sides compensated for the uneven surface.

In both games, not only did the quality suffer, but the players had to adjust to the self-inflicted circumstances. For a team that complained mightily about the cricket ground conditions in Antigua and Barbuda, it was surprising to see such deleterious compromises were deemed acceptable.

Late last night, the same doctors who performed the field’s reconstructive surgery wasted no time ruining their work. As stadium staff were restoring the CenturyLink stands, the groundskeepers doing the same to field, with the process of bringing the normal surface forward hitting its stride today. As you can see in the image above (via Twitter user @bartwiley), Seattle was more than ready to trade that TempSod for their FieldTurf.

It all seems so useless. Seattle paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring in a maligned field when they had a perfectly good surface underneath, all at the behest of U.S. Soccer. They didn’t want to do it, but as a tradeoff to get a World Cup Qualifier, they were willing to bring in the sod, reduce the quality of play, all because of some dated idea of what turf is or is not.

When most people think turf, they still think of the early MLS, rug over concrete, career-breaking carpets that were too prevalent back in the day. Even now, at BC Place and when Toronto and Montreal play in their alternate homes, poor fields see time in Major League Soccer, instances that muddy the discussions surrounding Seattle and Portland. The first step in having a real discussion about the tradeoffs of turf is recognizing not all turf is created equal.

Seattle and Portland are perfectly fine. For those who have played there, covered games there, or even watched games on television, you can see the difference in play between the roll forever rug in Vancouver and the games further south.

Does CenturyLink, JELD-WEN have perfect conditions? Are they well-maintained grass surfaces? Of course not. But players — from Major League Soccer professionals down to youth players throughout the country — constantly play on those surfaces. They’re different, but they’re fine. Even David Beckham and Thierry Henry have played games in Portland, and while the common refrain ‘players don’t like turf’ still gets thrown out, a more constructive statement is ‘players prefer grass.’ No player in Seattle or Portland speaks ill of their surfaces. Nobody’s going to turn their back on those clubs because of field issues.

And with young players all over the country playing on these new, improved surfaces, it’s possible this is just a generational issue. The new players coming up won’t have the same biases. They won’t have the scars of knee operations brought on by artificial turf. They won’t have that innate reticence to go stay up for fear of bring on turf burn. They’ll have a completely different concept of turf, ideas that should will likely permeate through the soccer masses, making games on good turf surfaces more acceptable.

The real question, acknowledging that well-kept grass surfaces are the ideal, is whether the trade-off of Seattle’s atmosphere, undoubtedly replicated (if in a different way) in Portland, is worth the compromise. But how can everybody that’s been so effusive about Tuesday’s display say it’s not worth the small sacrifice – playing on Seattle, Portland’s turf in exchange for that kind of support?

VIDEO: Che Adams scores amazing long-range goal

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Che Adams has waited all season long for his first Premier League goal and when it arrived, it did so in some style.

Adams, 23, arrived from Birmingham City last summer for $18.7 million and in his first Premier League season he’s worked so hard but hit the woodwork and come close on several occasions.

I’m sure this goal was worth the wait for Adams who scored a few in preseason and was a started ahead of Danny Ings at the beginning of the season but has been out of the lineup and this was his first league start since Dec. 28.

SOUTHAMPTON – MAN CITY STREAM LIVE

Early on at St Mary’s Adams lobbed Ederson from 40 yards out as Southampton’s players mobbed him and they celebrated his sublime strike in style.

Ralph Hasenhuttl has huge faith in Che Adams and it is now easy to understand why as Ings, Shane Long and Michael Obafemi have been given plenty of chances and now Adams has taken his with both hands. His partnership with Ings will be intriguing to watch in the final weeks of the 2019-20 season as Southampton try and push for a top 10 finish.

Check out this special Che Adams goal in the video below.

Sleepy Liverpool edge past Aston Villa

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Liverpool – Aston Villa wasn’t a classic, but the Reds won for the first time since they were crowned champions to keep their chase for plenty of Premier League records on track.

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Sadio Mane and Curtis Jones scored the goals to give Liverpool a 2-0 win as they have now won 24 consecutive wins at home, with the new Premier League champions winning all 17 of their home games so far this season.

LIVERPOOL – ASTON VILLA: FULL REPLAY

With the win they now have 89 points for the season and with five games to go they can still beat Man City’s record for most wins, points and the biggest winning-margin in Premier League history. Aston Villa remain in deep relegation trouble and are one point from safety with five games left.


Three things we learned

1. Late subs make the difference: Henderson, Wijnaldum and Firmino arrived for the final 30 minutes and made a huge difference as Liverpool struck twice in the final 20 minutes to seal a win. Jurgen Klopp’s side looked a bit disjointed but did what they had to do as they put their defeat at Man City behind them.

2. Solid Villa need more cutting edge: David Luiz, Tyrone Mings and Jack Grealish looked really good and Villa were solid up until Liverpool scored. Defensively they’ve looked better since the restart but they have to find more cutting edge. They face Man United, Crystal Palace, Everton, Arsenal and West Ham in their final five games and it will likely come down to the finale to see if they stay in the Premier League. Villa have to be more attacking in their final games of the season to try and keep themselves up.

3. Records still in sight: Liverpool can get records for the most points, wins and the biggest winning margin in Premier League history and that has to be their aim. This superb season could peter out but Klopp and his side will want to show everybody that the record suggests that are better than Man City in 2017-18 and are the best team we’ve ever seen in the PL. These tight wins all season long have pushed them towards greatness.

Man of the Match

Douglas Luiz – Was everywhere in midfield for Aston Villa and his bite in the tackle set the tone for a dogged display from every single Villa player. They will need more of that from Luiz in the final games of the season to drag themselves out of the bottom three.


A slow start to the match saw Liverpool create a few chances with both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane eager to get on the ball.

Douglas Luiz had a volley on goal which was straight at Alisson as the game struggled to come to life in the first half with Salah’s weak effort denied by Pepe Reina at the near post.

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In the second half the intensity failed to increase as Grealish had a shot saved by Alisson but the flagged was raised for offside.

Anwar El Ghazi then forced Alisson into a save at his near post as Grealish led a counter attack with Liverpool caught napping.

Liverpool made a triple substitution for the final 30 minutes as Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Georginio Wijnaldum came on to try and spark the champions into life.

Virgil van Dijk blocked a shot from Grealish as Villa looked more dangerous but then succumbed to a moment of quality.

Naby Keita picked out Mane at the back post and his finish came off the underside of the bar and in.

Substitute Jones then jumped off the bench and finished off Robertson’s cross after Salah nodded it down into his path. It was Jones’ first Premier League goal and sealed a 24th consecutive home win in the league for the champions.

Grealish went close late on but Alisson saved as Villa really missed a chance to pick up a bonus point in their relegation battle and Liverpool made them pay.

Southampton – Man City stream: How to watch, odds, team news

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Southampton – Manchester City ends the Sunday action in the Premier League (start time, 2pm ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as the Saints aim to stun a sauntering City side.

Fresh from their 4-0 thumping of newly-crowned champions Liverpool on Thursday, Pep Guardiola’s Man City will be full of confidence as they head to St Mary’s.

SOUTHAMPTON – MANCHESTER CITY LIVE STREAM

That said, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton should be fresher as they’ve had a full week to prepare for this clash, compared to just over 48 hours for Man City.

Team news

Jack Stephens and Moussa Djenepo return from suspension for Southampton with Stephens starting and Djenepo on the bench, while Danny Ings once again leads the line as he battles to win the Golden Boot and has Che Adams alongside him this time.

As for Man City, Guardiola make a host of changes from the team which beat Liverpool as Kevin de Bruyne, Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden all start on the bench with Fernandinho back from his suspension.

Odds and ends (full matchweek odds)

Look, Man City, whoever they put out as their starting lineup, are always going to be the favorites. Given Southampton’s shaky season defensively, a point would be a massive result for Saints as they aim to push for a top 10 finish in the final weeks.

This line reflects that Man City are the heavy, heavy favorites: (+850) Southampton v. Man City (-335), Tie: +475

Prediction

Ings could score a couple and Southampton have nothing to fear as they are safe from relegation and are focused on pushing for a top 10 finish. This should be an open, entertaining game but Man City’s attack will have too much for the Saints. 3-1 to Man City.

Real Madrid closer to La Liga title after seventh straight win

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MADRID — Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 on Sunday to move closer to its first Spanish league title in three years, as Sergio Ramos scored his fifth goal since the season resumed.

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Ramos converted a 73rd-minute penalty kick to give Real Madrid the win over Athletic Bilbao, for its seventh straight league victory and open a seven-point lead over second-place Barcelona, which visits fifth-place Villarreal later Sunday.

“These three points are very important, we knew this was going to be one of the difficult matches we had left,” Ramos said. “This was a key victory to try to put some pressure on Barcelona. We only depend on ourselves.”

Madrid has four matches left as it chases its first league title since 2017.

Ramos had already scored a late winner from the penalty spot in Madrid’s 1-0 win against Getafe on Thursday. He had scored in three other matches since the league resumed.

Ramos converted on Sunday after video review determined there was a foul when defender Dani García stepped on left back Marcelo’s right foot inside the area. Athletic wanted a penalty for a similar foul by Ramos away from the ball a few moments later, but the game was allowed to continue.

Madrid remained the only team with a perfect record after the coronavirus break. Its last three victories came with 1-0 results.

Eighth-place Athletic was coming off two straight victories and had won three of its last four matches, with the only setback a loss at Barcelona.

Madrid was without forward Eden Hazard and defender Raphael Varane because of minor injuries.

Two-time defending champion Barcelona had the lead when the league was suspended but has drawn three of its six matches since the return, including the last two. It will enter the match against Villarreal with coach Quique Setién under pressure because of the team’s poor run of results.

The Catalan club will face a Villarreal team that has won five of its six matches after the break.