Soccer played on an pristine pitch is beautiful. There is a precision to the ball sliding across the turf from foot to foot that can be likened to a cue ball on a pool table. Soccer on a bad field is less smooth. Watching player slog passes into touch while they struggle to adjust to the way the ball is responding can be frustrating and plain ugly.
Well, Rocket City United's home ground, John Hunt Soccer Stadium, has a problem. It's one that is easily solved, but it is still an issue that requires attention; preferably prior to RCU's opening home preseason match versus Martin Methodist College. The grass is too long.
I'm no groundskeeper, but I've played and watched the game for over 30 years. So, that makes me somewhat of an expert the effect of field conditions on players. Don't get me wrong. The field is nice. It's flat and the grass itself seems to be of good quality. The words thick and lush come to mind, but that's not necessarily good if it's too high.
It's just that the JHSS tuf is at least 1/2 inch longer than it should be. I walked the field at every RCU at JHSS last season, and it was consistently too long. As a result the ball sits abnormally high in relation to the players feet, and the ball response to the turf is accentuated. This causes passes that are weighted improperly and shots that are not struck true. Even the bounce of the ball is softened. It's the reverse effect that one sees when teams play on poor artificial turfs.
As a result, every soccer decision can be affected. Does a defender allow an errant over the top pass sail on to the keeper or will the ball slow enough for a trailing attacker to catch up with it?
There were times during RCU's last season where those types of instant player decisions actually led to a few goals that would not have been scored on other fields. That is unacceptable. The argument can be made that both teams have to play on the same pitch, so what's the problem? However, those conditions shouldn't exist in the first place. When preventable field conditions change the outcome of a match, something must be done.
I speculate that the people in charge of the maintenance there do not want keep it too short, should the drought conditions that we've experienced in the last few years continue. However, when it's time to play high quality soccer, the field should be of an equally high caliber. The JHSS doesn't host that many games. In addition to the RCU matches, there are a few youth tournaments and high school playoff games held there every year. It is not asking too much to crop the field to a level where the beautiful game can be played beautifully.
I'm told RCU is speaking with city officials to come to a resolution on the problem. I hope so.
Please cut the grass.