Sounders praise new FieldTurf

long overdue: Team long complained of need for new surface

DON RUIZ; Staff writerFebruary 28, 2012 

When Sounders and Seahawks fans visit CenturyLink Field during the coming seasons, they will notice a new artificial turf on the field and new video boards in the end zones.

“It’s an ongoing process of making sure we have a first-class stadium and all the latest enhancements,” said Gary Wright, Sounders senior vice president of business operations. “From a soccer side, it was important to upgrade the turf and get the best playable field possible.”

Work was still being done on the video boards Monday as the Sounders trained on their home field for the first time this season.

However, players and coaches were more interested in the new FieldTurf playing surface. Their consensus: a major upgrade.

“Compared to last year’s, it’s a lot better,” second-year midfielder Servando Carrasco said. “Last year’s was a little too quick when it rained – and it rains a lot here. ... I think we’re all happy with this.”

So is coach Sigi Schmid.

“Having a new turf field is a big plus for us from the standpoint of it’s going to play much truer ... and it’s going to slow the ball down at times, which is important for a team like us that likes to keep possession,” he said. “Obviously, there’s more bounce to it, there’s more give, it’s a spongier surface, so it plays a lot better than it did last year.”

That extra cushioning also was noted by Sounders veterans Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Roger Levesque.

“It’s a little easier on the body to run around, especially for an old guy like me: 31,” Levesque said. “The softer the surface, the more like grass, the better. Guys’ eyes are lighting up, seeing the pitch.”

The Sounders had played on the previous surface since their expansion 2009 season (it was installed in 2008). Back then, the turf got the kind of praise the new surface received Monday. However, it degraded notably in 2010, and by last season it drew criticism from players and opposing coaches.

Wright didn’t answer directly when asked if the home Sounders and Seahawks – who are footing the bill – waited too long to replace that turf. However, he said they won’t wait too long to replace this one, which also will be used by the Washington Huskies football team this fall.

“I think we have a commitment from the entire ownership group that when it needs to be replaced, it’ll be replaced ahead of schedule,” Wright said. “We’re not going to get into a situation where it doesn’t look as good or doesn’t play as well as it should.”

Wright said he hopes the new-generation turf will be acceptable for the U.S. national team and for visiting international clubs. However, he offered no hope that the stadium will ever have a permanent grass field.

“It’s the configuration of the roof: the shadows and the patterns,” he said. “It would just be impossible to replace all the time. You’d be playing in mud more than half the season – even if you kept replacing the field. ... Right from the beginning (Seahawks owner) Paul Allen wanted grass, (former Seahawks coach) Mike Holmgren wanted grass, everybody wanted grass. If it would have worked, it would be grass.”

ADDED TIME

Forward Eddie Johnson (hamstring) is not expected to play in the Community Shield home charity match against Jaguares at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Schmid said that if healthy, Johnson would start at forward alongside Fredy Montero. ... The half-dozen players who sat out Sunday training due to illness were back in action.

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer

Alex Morgan Signs

Sounders Women on Monday announced the signing of U.S. national team forward Alex Morgan. She joins USA teammates Hope Solo and Sydney Leroux on the local club.

Morgan has scored 16 goals in 32 appearances since her national team debut in 2010. She was the youngest player on the USA’s 2011 World Cup team and scored goals in the semifinal and final.

“Alex is a world-class player who has proven herself well beyond her 22 years,” Sounders Women general manager Amy Carnell said in a press release. “Her breakout World Cup performance set the stage for what will be an exciting Sounders Women’s season.”

The Sounders Women play in the USL-W League, and have no direct relationship to Sounders FC. They are operated by the same owners who run Sounders FC U23s, the Pierce County PDL team formerly known as the Tacoma Tide.

Sounders Women will play a summer season at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila. The national team members are expected to appear in three home friendly matches and four home league matches. The schedule is expected to be announced today.

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