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Louis Van Gaal criticizes condition of Seattle Sounders field


Louis van Gaal criticized the state of the pitch at the CenturyLink Field in Seattle after Manchester United beat Club America on the same surface that hosted a One Direction concert earlier this week.

United made a solid start to their defense of the International Champions Cup in the United States with a 1-0 win over their Mexican opponents thanks to a fifth-minute header from new boy Morgan Schneiderlin.

Schneiderlin and fellow debutants Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Matteo Darmian played well in an otherwise uninspiring game that was not helped by the state of the playing surface at the home of MLS side Seattle Sounders and NFL franchise Seattle Seahawks.

Sounders and organizers of the International Champions Cup – a pre-season tournament which United won last season – held talks before the match about placing a layer of turf on top of the artificial surface at the stadium.

It is not known who made the final call to add the layer of turf, but it was clear that Van Gaal was not happy with the quality of the surface.

"It was not good. It was difficult," the United manager said.

"The first surface is artificial and natural grass over (the top).

"It is always moving. You have seen a lot of players were… It is not so easy. You can get more and more injuries. It was a big concern."

An official from the Sounders admitted the turf may have been laid before the sell-out One Direction concert took place at the 67,000-seater venue on Wednesday night.

Van Gaal feels organizers of the International Champions Cup have failed to provide adequate playing surfaces for his team for the last two seasons.

"It was also (like that) last season against Real Madrid," said Van Gaal, referencing United's pre-season match in Ann Arbor last summer.

"We also played (there) in such circumstances. That is the difference in the USA.

"In American Football that kind of stuff is more important. In England we have Old Trafford and it is only for football. No One Direction entertainment. That is the difference.

"But in England we live for football. Here they live for American Football, baseball and basketball. It is different."

The surface was nothing like the ones the Seahawks have provided for United at their training base in Bellevue this week.

Van Gaal said: "The training facilities are fantastic.

"We have been really well received by Seattle Seahawks and also the football club.

"Everybody is fantastic. The pitches are fantastic. We have to play football on such a pitch. Tonight we could not play on such a pitch. "That is a pity because the ball and the pitch are very important."

Sam Johnstone started in goal for United, who made 11 changes at half-time, as David de Gea was injured.

Van Gaal said the injury to the Real Madrid target was not serious.

"De Gea and (Antonio) Valencia have minor injuries," he said. "We cannot take any risk in the preparation."

There was praise from the Dutchman for Schneiderlin, who looped a header into the far corner of the net in the fifth minute from Juan Mata's cross.

"We have practiced this with him," Van Gaal said. "He scored five goals last season.

"I was very pleased with the performance. But it is also a fact that Club America don't have many good headers.

"We could know in advance our benefit was there."

Having ditched Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao this, Van Gaal appears short on numbers up front.

On Saturday he played Depay, usually a winger, in the number 10 position just behind Wayne Rooney in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Van Gaal does not seem in a rush to buy a new striker, but Van Gaal also hinted he could enter the market for a forward if he deems it necessary.

"I am not worried about depth of forwards. We still have Rooney. He can play in the striker's position," Van Gaal said.

"We also have Chicharito (Javier Hernandez), (James) Wilson and maybe a surprise, you never know. It is a process. I am not worried about that position."

Photo credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports


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  1. CTBlues

    July 19, 2015 at 11:26 am

    This is what worries me about hosting a World Cup in the US. If we do get 2022 reassigned to us or 2026 no stadium that has a 100% plastic playing surface should be allowed to be used. That means no games in the NYC metro area or Boston Metro area you would have to go to New Haven to play at Yale bowl which is the largest grass stadium in the northeast at 61.5k or Hartford to play at the second largest grass stadium in the northeast Rentschler Field which currently holds 40.6k but will probably expanded to 50k by the time the next WC would happen in the US.

    NFL grass stadiums to play at would be Reliant Stadium in Houston 71k, Soldier Field Chicago 61.5k, Lincoln Financial Field Philadelphia 69.1k, Heinz Field Pittsburgh 65.5k, FedEx Field Landover, MD 75k, Bank of America Stadium Charlotte 74.5k, EverBank Field Jacksonville 84k, Raymond James Stadium Tampa Bay 66k, Sun Life Stadium Miami 65.3k, Nissan Stadium Nashville 69.1k, Arrowhead Stadium Kansas City Missouri 76.4k, Mile High Stadium Denver 76.1k, University of Phoenix Stadium Glendale 78.6k, Qualcomm Stadium San Diego 70.5k, Levi’s Stadium Santa Clara 68.5k.

    I could do college stadiums that hold 100k+ but I don’t know which ones allow alcohol to be served in them.

    • IanCransonsKnees

      July 19, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      Have to say I’d go out of my way to get over there and experience it even if I couldn’t get tickets. It’d be an outstanding show that’ll show the decision to award to Russia and Qatar up for what it is.

    • R

      July 19, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      I imagine though that when this becomes closer to reality, a lot of these turf stadiums will figure out a solution real quick.

      • CTBlues

        July 20, 2015 at 11:13 am

        One year at the old Giants stadium they tried to switch from astroturf to grass so they put sod in interlocking trays and it was awful. Unless they can greatly improve upon that idea I can’t really see how WC games could be played at MetLife Stadium, AT&T Stadium, Gillette Stadium, CenturyLink Field, Ford Field, the Super Dome, or either of the new stadiums in Minneapolis and Atlanta.

    • Walter Lippmann

      July 20, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      You don’t think they would use MetLife or CenturyLink for a World Cup? Please. Just like the 1994 World Cup, a grass field would be installed just prior to any matches being held.

      • CTBlues

        July 20, 2015 at 9:50 pm

        I know they will I just think they shouldn’t because it’s not 1994 anymore and just laying sod on turf is terrible and unsafe.

  2. Iancransonsknees

    July 19, 2015 at 2:48 am

    The stadium is fantastic, it’s the surface that needs fixing. You chaps are innovative enough to sort it out, especially a city like Seattle which in modernity seemed to me to be built on the fruits of innovation and technology.

    With all the brownfield sites available in this day and age no new stadium should be built in difficult to reach areas. The location of Century Link was not far off perfect in my opinion.

    • CTBlues

      July 19, 2015 at 10:50 am

      The playing surface in Seattle could easily be changed to Desso GrassMaster (grass/plastic hybrid) but the Sea Hawks are too cheap to make the change. Supporters from the northwest always say but it rains all the time there well last time I checked it wasn’t always Sunny and 75 degrees in England either and they don’t play on plastic.

      • R

        July 19, 2015 at 2:23 pm

        As a Sounders fan, this drives me bananas. The Seahawks also don’t like replacing the existing field turf, because they like it broken in. This keeps on leading to those inane calls for a new stadium when this one is so close to being perfect.

        I don’t get why they can’t figure out grass, which was what was supposed to be the playing surface according to the original plans.

  3. Ajas

    July 18, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Right… just like the new Wembley Stadium is perfect. Oh wait it’s been relaid 11 times in 7 years, and been ridiculed as a disaster zone.

    And it hosted One Direction 3 times last year, and they’re coming back for 4 more shows this year. Get over yourself.

    The reality is any modern stadium is a venue for all kinds of entertainment and having a perfect football pitch is honestly a secondary concern… Even at Wembley Stadium.

    • Kei

      July 19, 2015 at 1:15 am

      Right, but football is played on real, actual grass at Wembley — or for that matter, at any football ground worthy of its name.

      That so many professional franchises in the US and Canada see fit to play their matches on a plastic surface speaks volumes about what their priorities are.

  4. Ivan

    July 18, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    I personally refuse to watch any Sounders home games on that abomination of a playing surface.

    Unless there is a game pending in Antarctica, football must not be played on fake turf.

    The turf situation in Seattle automatically takes away from the legitimacy of the “franchise”.

  5. ribman

    July 18, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    he is correct

    How the team with the most impassioned fan base in MLS can play on that atrocity is mind boggling

    build a soccer specific stadium

    • Heimdall

      July 18, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      Stadium building fatigue and the fact that a new stadium would be farther away from the downtown core that’s easily accessed by transit 5 minutes away which is where Seahawks Stadium is situated to the burbs or farther away from transit inside the city is why people here can live with what you consider to be an atrocity.

      Leaving Seahawks Stadium for a new 45k SSS makes little sense as the new facility will be used even less, as the old stadium will still be needed for the extra capacity games. Spending at least 350 million is a poor business decision that directly removes money from the DP fund just for the purpose of installing grass at a much lesser site. What is the financial gain? Outsiders and insiders gripe, but the outsiders are irrelevant and the local gripers are as well because there’s still at least 39k attending every MLS match in Seattle. Placating the few local holdouts would net a negligible financial gain.

      What about player acquisition benefits? Here is what Adrian says about that: “It’s a big deal in that our players would prefer to play on grass, but we’ve never had a player tell us he doesn’t want to come to Seattle because we don’t have grass,” he said. “They have preferred grass, but it has never hindered us from getting a player.

      Field turf isn’t ideal and as much as I love spending other people’s money, this is the real world and Seahawks Stadium is close to perfect which is better than the good enough that other MLS stadium sites have to deal with because in the real world, one can’t always get what one wants.

      I still don’t know if this qualifies, but something closer to an atrocity is the lack of a truly professional outdoor soccer league in North America during the dark ages between the passing of NASL and prior to MLS starting up. All four major sports had a golden age between 83 and 96 that soccer missed out on, but I digress.

      • seattlered

        July 21, 2015 at 3:16 pm

        How about Memorial Stadium in Seattle Center? That could be easily renovated to seat 40k and real grass can be laid.

        No reason to consider building a new stadium in the burbs if we’ve got one in our own heart (of the city).

        i agree with other commenters, turf games are awful to watch.

        Go Liverpool

    • TJ

      July 18, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      I am sure they will wave a magic wand and have one tomorrow.

    • TJ

      July 18, 2015 at 5:18 pm

      If ManU doesn’t like it then don’t come over for your annual money grabs. Go play your overcharged exhibitions someone else. The soccer stunk anyway since everyone was going through the motions. This ICC is a big ripoff.

      • Kei

        July 19, 2015 at 1:09 am

        Lol. MLS/SUM wouldn’t have a chance in hell of breaking even financially if not for these friendlies. You might want to take it up with them instead of WST commenters.

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