New England Soccer Today

Pitch (Not So) Perfect

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When Union coach Jim Curtin pondered his lineup for Saturday’s match against the Revolution, he wasn’t just thinking about next week’s Open Cup final.

Yes, the opportunity to lift a trophy was at the forefront of the club’s preparation for their last MLS game before Wednesday’s final. But Curtin also kept in mind Gillette Stadium’s artificial turf – which he felt was worse than what he expected.

With the Patriots hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars less than 24 hours after Saturday’s opening whistle, the Revolution’s home grounds not only featured a gridiron, and the large Patriots logo at midfield, but its length was also shortened by a total of 10 yards, presumably to accommodate the end zone logos.

Making matters more troubling, the stadium hosted an Ed Sheeran concert on Friday evening. As a result, the crush of concertgoers, along with the heavy machinery used to assemble and dismantle the stage, left a particularly flattened field in its wake.

“(It was) a horrible surface,” Curtin said. “The football lines – I felt like it was a throwback. It set MLS 10 years back.”

While the jab was said in jest, it turns out Curtin wasn’t the only one voicing his displeasure over the state of the pitch.

Revolution coach Jay Heaps probably wasn’t a fan of visuals, either, but his grievances dealt specifically with the way the turf played. A number of overcooked passes and heavy touches betrayed his typically technically-sound squad, especially during the first half.

“The field was extremely fast tonight,” Heaps said. “You could see the ball was running away from guys a little bit. Ideally, you’d like to be a little crisper, a little bit sharper, and when we did, I thought we were able to get through and we had 20 shots I think and 11 on goal.”

Yes, the turf – which was replaced early during the 2014 season – didn’t quite stop the Revolution from knocking on the Union’s door all night. Interestingly, the Revolution were slightly more accurate with their passes on Saturday (78.7 percent) than they have been on the whole this season (76.8 percent).

It may not have played the way either side want it to, nor did it look good to the spectators and broadcast audience. Either way, it was enough to alter the way a Revolution opponent prepared for the match.

“You look at the table, and you see where we’re at,” Curtin said regarding the way he put together his lineup. “Obviously, the turf was a factor, too.”

With no concerts on tap for October, and the Patriots on the road during the third weekend of the month, the pitch should look – and play – better for the Revolution’s regular season home finale against Montreal on Oct. 17.

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