Today's first practice at CenturyLink Field on the latest installation of FieldTurf saw Seattle Sounders FC focused on primarily on short passes and dribbling to learn how it plays. While the in-fill still sits rather high, there will be some noticeable rooster tails. This is the latest and greatest of the technologies from FieldTurf and the vibe around the team was generally positive.
Midfielder Alvaro Fernandez, through a translator, after saying how great the surface is and hoping that the team can adapt to it said:
The biggest difference is the speed that the ball moves. When the grass is a little bit longer the ball has to be hit with a little more force, so that's one of the things that has to change when it's shorter.
For ForMidFender Roger Levesque this will be the third surface at the stadium. With a long career both in MLS and the USL, he's played on several surfaces. With a huge grin on his face he talked about how the newer turf and larger crowds will only make home better.
Just coming out here with the new surface it still feels like home. It was great coming out and getting used to it with a lot of passing drills, a lot of possession. It will take a little bit of time for the guys to get used to whether it's wet or whether it's dry. It's been good, so far so good.
He also described the differences.
The game is a touch slower. As it ages it maybe it gets batted down it speeds up, but last year that ball just pings around and the games so fast. I think it will adjust. Eventually the players will get to know what that ball's going to do. The speed of the game is the same for both teams; both teams have to adjust to it. It's still soccer. I don't foresee it being a huge issue.
Sounders Senior Vice-President of Business Operations Gary Wright believes that the new surface should be able to get national team or international friendlies in the future. He pointed out that some managers are willing and that artificial surfaces are becoming more common, specifically in Russia.
I've had conversations with major managers before and they would have played on FieldTurf, but it doesn't always seem to get to the right person.
There are also changes to the video boards to be expected. The Brougham End board is already replaced, while the North End is expected to be done by March 17. Today was about the team getting used to the new surface. It will be true tomorrow and even in Wednesday evening's match against Jaguares de Chiapas.