At a quick glance, one might be fooled into thinking the Seattle Sounders finally convinced First & Goal to install grass at CenturyLink Field. The lush, green surface looked absolutely spectacular on Monday.
Upon closer inspection, it was of course just the new FieldTurf product. But it was soft to the touch, stood up nicely and the consensus seemed to be that it played as true as it ever had.
"It's great," Sounders captain Brad Evans said on Monday. "It plays really, really nice. With the turf before it was so matted down. It was bouncy when it was wet and it didn't play true. This one, even yesterday when it was wet, it played pretty true.
"We have a little tinkering to do with the amount of sand, the amount of rubber that's in there -- because it is a long turf, it's a good couple inches -- so toying with the depth and how we want to play on it will be key moving forward."
Added Clint Dempsey, a regular critic of CenturyLink Field's surface: "It feels a lot better, it's a little bit more soft. It's easier on your joints. It needs to be scraped a little bit more, so hopefully they do that, but it's a lot better."
Of course, the issue has rarely been with the turf when it's new. The real test probably won't come for another year or two, when the plastic blades get matted down, torn and generally start to play much harder and faster.
While the players' bodies may appreciate the change, Evans admitted some level of home-field advantage may have been lost.
"I think last year's turf was more of an advantage for us," he said. "Just the way that it played, teams were shell-shocked. Teams wouldn't even travel; [Thierry] Henry wouldn't travel, certain players wouldn't travel. That says something about the old turf. This is a bit more similar to Portland, Vancouver had a good turf last year. I don't know if this is a real advantage, we got to train on it a couple days and we're used to playing on turf more than anything. The fact they don't train on it, if it's something we can put in the back of our heads to spur us on, that's good."