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USA Training at Saprissa

Never mind the USA practice. The highlight was the onset of dusk on a breezy, cool evening at Estadio Saprissa. The sun's fading rays mixed with low, fast-moving clouds to create a hue nearly the same as the 23,000 purple seats. Breathtaking.

The Americans' training session was closed to the media for the first hour or so, then opened up for a meaningless 20-minute portion. Standard operating procedure so close to a qualifier -- no complaints. For the most part, it was a photo op for the five Costa Rican TV crews and handful of photographers.

Besides the opportunity to continue getting reacquainted, the USA players were able to test the artificial turf that was installed at Saprissa a few years ago. Why such a detestable surface in a country that prides itself on natural ingredients? Rain, and lots of it, between May and October. Oguchi Onyewu couldn't remember the last time he played a competitive match on turf, then corrected himself and said it must have been his previous visit to Saprissa in 2005. Tim Howard said his last turf exposure was in MLS.

What does Frankie Hejduk think of Saprissa's turf and how much improvement has he made with his injured groin? Keep reading, por favor.....

Hejduk: "It's the old-school stuff, I'll put it that way."

Better than the old turf at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the former home to Real Salt Lake known for its granite-hard playing surface? "Comparable."

What's your playing status?

"Saturday [against Honduras in Chicago] is definitely a possibility. We're working as hard as we can to make that the goal."

While the USA squad trained today, Hejduk ran on the side. Translation: He'll sit out Wednesday and see how he feels for the Honduras showdown. With Hejduk out, does Jonathan Spector start on the right side of the backline? Or is Marvell Wynne ready for a Costa Rica road challenge?

Coach Bob Bradley, on the turf: "This is worn down a little bit. It's a little bit faster and little bit harder. Whenever you play on turf, the bounces are different, the footing is different, and that's something you try to adjust to."

By Steve Goff  |  June 1, 2009; 10:24 PM ET
Categories:  Costa Rica , U.S. men's national team  
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Steve, pics of stunning scene?

Posted by: arswift24 | June 1, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Regrettably, I didn't have my camera with me. Other photographers were there; I'll post a link asap.

Posted by: Steve Goff | June 1, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

If the weather's bad, or if the field is wet at all, that surface is going to cause all kinds of bad bounces. We'll have to be very careful.

I know hoping for a draw is the popular (and probably rational) prediction, but I say we win 2-1 with a late goal.

Posted by: mmathai1 | June 1, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Are you saying that Goff's words don't paint a picture?

Posted by: Reignking | June 1, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Goff is, as we all know, a wonderful writer, but if what they say about a picture is true, even he can't make up for the 955 words he left sitting on the table. Of course, I have an image in my head, but I doubt it does more than pale in comparison to what the scene truly looked like.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | June 1, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse

Shouldn't FIFA make it illegal to host a WC qualifier on artificial turf (or, at the least, terrible artificial turf)? Aren't there enough GRASS PITCHES to host WC matches. Come on. This is pathetic.

Every minnow should familiarize itself with a lame artificial surface and then host top teams on it in the hopes of getting a lucky win.

Posted by: kjm1971 | June 1, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Some day Goff will write a book about all of this great stuff. I think it's funny that Marc Fisher worked his way out of a job being such a d-bag, while Steve Goff travels the world covering the worlds game. There's got to be some poetic justice in that.
Thanks for keeping it real Steve.
Yo JfATLish: You saw Steve's last photo didn't you? He ain't no mmathai1 that's for sure.;-)
Hardee Har, har.
Thanks for the updates Big Steve, you haven't missed much, except for some excellent weather over the last few days or so. Then again, you probably would have spent most of your weekend up in New England had you been on the DCU beat. Lucky mofo, keep doing your thing man, we love it!

Posted by: DadRyan | June 2, 2009 12:01 AM | Report abuse

I saw it, and all the attempts at captions too. That said, I now know I've arrived, my handle has been abbreviated. I gotta sleep, I gotta be at work in 4 and a half hours.

Megan Fox is really hot.

Stars and Strips FOREVER!!!

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | June 2, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse



Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | June 2, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Spector is quick but I believe and what I've seen Wynne is more quicker. That's the key to the style of the Ticos and the turf. Wynne should get the nod instead of Spector. They are not as physical as the Hondurans, and their game is of speed. Everyone knows of Wynne speed ohh and he plays on artificial turf with TFC!!! Goff tell Bradley Wynne needs to play!!

Posted by: silentbat | June 2, 2009 1:16 AM | Report abuse

Totally off topic but I know quite a few people who visit this blog have been curious about the local TV ratings of United and how they compare to the others. This was released yesterday:

1)Washington Capitals 1.1
2)Washington Wizards 0.9
3)Washington Nationals 0.5
4)DC United 0.1

Posted by: croftonpost | June 2, 2009 5:07 AM | Report abuse

Guys head over to the US Soccer website to see a pic of the sunset. I am a sunset/sunrise enthusiast myself, and it is one hell of a pic. I'd love to visit the country one day.

Posted by: adamsunited | June 2, 2009 6:28 AM | Report abuse

RE: Playing on Turf.

Anyone who has ever been to Costa Rica will understand why they have turf pitches there. The sheer amount of rain makes it impossible to maintain a grass pitch.

Both teams will be playing on the same surface. This is just part of the challenge of qualifying. It's like in baseball - no two ballparks are alike. Same in soccer - every venue presents its own challenges.

What FIFA should do is come up with a set of standards for turf pitches and require that the technology be upgraded.

Posted by: nycrishi | June 2, 2009 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Costa Rica may be a small country (pop. 4.25 million) but in futbol terms in our region its not a minnow. They have qualified for 3 FIFA World Cups, 90, 02 and 06. The Saprissa Academy is one of the best in the Confederation. They produce excellent players some of whom have played in larger leagues around the world. For whatever its worth their FIFA ranking is 41. The turf field will be a problem for us, it always is. Get ready to see some 20ft bounces inside the penalty area. Gooch needs to be on his best behavior.

Posted by: sbg1 | June 2, 2009 6:58 AM | Report abuse

1)Washington Capitals 1.1
2)Washington Wizards 0.9
3)Washington Nationals 0.5
4)DC United 0.1

I'd be curious about the timeframe used. The Capitals played two heart-wrenching playoff series that went to seven games each. Foregetting DCU for a moment, that is the only explanation for Capitals being over the Wizards, who didn't make the playoffs at all.

Posted by: troy6 | June 2, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Steve- while in Tibas you simply MUST search out a small burger stand called "Soda La Poblanita" They sell single, double and triple "mysteriosos" - to-die-for burgers. :D

Posted by: JB252 | June 2, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Just one other aside--Wynne regularly plays on turf with TFC. Granted, it's a far better surface. But he may be a much better fit for the Saprissa field than Spector.

Posted by: JoeW1 | June 2, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I thought that FIFA bared turf for competitive international matches. Years back when the USA hosted the world cup they installed temporary turf at Giants Stadium. I remember that being done to comply with FIFA rules. Otherwise, there would not have been any games in the NYC metro area. Maybe its just a World Cup rule. But if it is, then I think its silly to have different field requirements for the tournament itself then the qualifiers for it. FIFA recently tried to implement altitude restrictions (they where forced to change them when they realized that they would have bared any games in capitol of Bolivia. I dare say that turf is responsible for a far greater health risk then playing in high altitude and more greatly deteriorates the quality of the football.

Posted by: nyjer1 | June 2, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

They show DC United games on TV?

Posted by: DadRyan | June 2, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

On turf -- since people want to make up their own rules -- FIFA removed its ban on artificial surfaces. It was never "just" a World Cup rule, but it is no longer a rule.

As for health -- that's an open question. We've all seem injuries we thought must be related to turf -- and there is the dreaded 'turf toe' -- but the NFL swears its studies do not bear out the notion that turf is more dangerous. Of course, they have a financial interest in the outcome of those studies....

And, I would not trust hamburgers that are called "misteriosos".

Posted by: fischy | June 2, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

They show DC United games on TV?

Posted by: DadRyan | June 2, 2009 10:07 AM

@DadRyan -- you stole my punchline, and beat me to it.

Of course, United's ratings were miserable. They've been on Comcast 2 or 3 times? If people knew to find them there, the games would get better ratings, I'm sure.

Posted by: fischy | June 2, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse


It was strictly regular season ratings. The Caps were getting 6.0-10.0 ratings in the playoffs. They just had better ratings than the Wizards.

Posted by: croftonpost | June 2, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Any country that has not won a World Cup more recently than England can be called a minnow. It makes some people feel better.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | June 2, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Everyone freaking out over the turf:

FIFA actually specifically allows countries to use FieldTurf if they can prove that growing an acceptable grass field is too difficult to do consistently due to local weather conditions. FIFA is supposed to inspect and grade every FieldTurf surface before approving it. It's not encouraged, but it is definitely allowed.

In Costa Rica, it rains far too much during most of the year for them to have a grass field that is anything more than a mud pit. As much as I don't like turf, it will play uniformly all over; the muck that you'd get in Costa Rica has a high possibility of being inconsistent (standing water, clumps of dirt, etc).

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | June 2, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Thanks fischy and Chest_rockwell for the clarification. Its reassuring that I did not make this up all in my head. In regards to NFL owners claims about turf being safe, the players union has competing studies. Of course, this was really all done in the framework of the old style turf that places like the Eagles Stadium used. I know that there is no turf that folks contend is really not that bad. Putting aside the weather conditions that make it hard to grow grass, I would always prefer real grass and wish that MLS would have would have a tighter policy. TFC and Seattle both play on turf? The weather of those locals do not require it.

Posted by: nyjer1 | June 2, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I'm guessing that turf was chosen for BMO because of the weather. Something about using it year-round. The mayor recently came out for a grass field, if some other facility was built for community leagues to use in the winter. (apparently, they put up a bubble over BMO in the winter).

In Seattle, Qwest was originally sold as a grass field, but the Seahawks convinced the city to go with FieldTurf. It's my hope that a World Cup bid might convince them to switch over to grass.

Posted by: fischy | June 2, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Wynne should start since he plays on turf regularly and he's fast. WOuld think the turf would have as much an impact on the CR players as the US players; most of them must play on regular grass for their club teams whereever they may play. It's just going to make for a crummy game; but I guess most away qualifiers for the US aren't exactly things of beauty.

Any idea who the ref is? Hopefully no one from Jamaica....

Posted by: hacksaw | June 2, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Can't they just build a retractable roof stadium that's closed when it rains too much. OK, so it rains all the time and the grass would never get any sunlight. There are ways around that. I'm sure DadRyan knows a thing or two about growing grass indoors.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 2, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Maybe they play on turf really because the urine and battery acid kill the grass.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 2, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Didn't we play Argentina on turf last year? If so, Howard has played on turf since his MLS days seeing that he was excellent in that game.

Posted by: davethelad | June 2, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

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