Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Final Thoughts On 2009 NPSLFF

I finally got some sleep after getting into Huntsville Monday morning around 2AM after the long drive from Wisconsin. I've had a chance now to reflect on the great time in Madison for the NPSL Final Four. The soccer was of good quality, and the crowd was pretty good. I suppose it could have been better if the local team, the Madison 56ers, had qualified. The only real negative that I can think of was the pitch at Breese Stevens Field.

From afar the field looked pretty good, but when I walked it before the matches I was appalled. There was a large crown on the field that was a remnant of when the field was primarily used for high school football. A player running into the penalty area from the touch line was literally running up hill.

There were large sections in front of each goal where sod had been replaced, but it appears that the sod had not been rolled resulting in large undulations in the ground right in front of the goal mouth. RCU's goalkeeper Tyler Early was nearly fooled by one of these irregularities when a shot came in that looked to be bouncing at knee height hit a fold in the turf and bounced about two feet higher than expected. It was only Early's quick reflexes that allow him to adjust in time to get his body behind the ball as it caromed off his shoulder and out for a corner.

Overhead veiw of the field at Breese Stevens Field in which one can clearly see the replaced sections of sod

There were ruts down the sidelines where the track around the old football field used to be. I was seriously concerned that someone would suffer ligament damage from a misplaced step. Fortunately for everyone involved, that did not happen.

The grass itself was great, but it was way too long for soccer. I've written before about the turf last year at John Hunt Soccer Stadium, and how it was terrible for the more technical players. The same can be said about the turf at Breese Stevens Field. The Sonoma County Sol's wingers Trevor Hurst and Eric Lafon both had trouble dealing with the sticky grass that neutralized their quick cuts and speed with the ball at their feet. It seemed every player was slow to learn the correct weight that passes through the thick turf required. I can think of a few times this weekend where mis-weighted passes led to turnovers that resulted in goals, including the game winning goal by the Erie Admirals SC over RCU.

Now, I'm not saying that the results of the games would have been any different had the games been played on a better field, but it certainly affected the quality of the soccer. That is unfortunate, and a lesson to be learned. Next year, I can assure you that at least the grass will be cut for soccer when Rocket City United hosts the 2010 edition of the NPSL Final Four.

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