Not only is today Friday but it’s also [wait for it] [wait for it] MATCH DAY.
Vancouver hosts LA Galaxy tonight and the main topic of conversation in the buildup to the match has been whether Zlatan Ibrahimovic will play on the turf confines of BC Place.
The Swedish superstar has said the playing surface will not keep him out of tonight’s match but his past hesitance to do so has put him in line with other European stars who played in MLS.
David Beckham categorically refused to play on turf, Didier Drogba rarely did so and the only time Thierry Henry made an appearance on the turf of Gillette Stadium was during a playoff match.
As best I can count, Atlanta, New England, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver are the lone turf teams left in the league (Minnesota’s temporary home at TCF Bank Stadium had turf but their new digs, opening later this month, are grass).
With the exception of Portland (which could be joining the grass club), all the other clubs share their stadiums with one or more pro sports teams.
Now, this piece won’t get into the myriad of complications associated with the Whitecaps’ stadium situation (we want you all to have a cheery Friday after all). But the Zlatan debate does reignite the oft-problematic presence of turf in MLS. The cost associated with laying down natural grass also was one of the key reasons cited for Vancouver’s withdrawal from the 2026 joint World Cup bid as a host site.
But moreover, at a time when Vancouver is attempting to draw talent that can help it compete year-in and year-out for trophies, building a new world order is conceivably made more difficult by the turf monsters lurking in BC Place.
In a Guardian piece on the subject, Houston Dynamo defender Philippe Senderos (a decent, yet hardly elite player) was quoted as saying he would be extremely hesitant to move to a team playing on turf.
“I think knowing that the Houston Dynamo play on grass was definitely a factor [in me joining the club]. If it would had been on turf I would have had to think about it a little bit more,” he said.
In some ways, this is a silly discussion to be having. The Caps aren’t moving out of BC Place anytime soon and, as indicated above, the cost associated with laying down natural grass is so prohibitive a World Cup match wouldn’t make it profitable, much less an MLS one.
But when seemingly every aspect of the Caps’ transfer business is scrutinized by fans, it is something interesting to keep in mind. Clearly artificial playing surfaces haven’t hindered Seattle and Atlanta’s player recruitment and blaming turf for why Vancouver hasn’t signed a Drogba or a Zlatan is a little like me blaming my busy work schedule for why I haven’t gone out with Emma Stone.
But the Guardian headline asks the question: Can a world-class league be built on turf? For Caps’ fans the question might be “can Vancouver build an elite team on turf?” That question remains to be answered.
Onto the links...
Shameless Self Promotion
We have everything you need to get ready for tonight’s match. Yours truly breaks down the matchups to keep an eye on (and how to watch!) the game and AtlantisB goes behind enemy lines to get a read on the 2019 LA Galaxy squad. And, as always, make sure to get your lineup predictions in!
Oh, and get caught up on the Caps’ developmental goings-on with our good friend Caleb Wilkins.
The Best of the Rest
Sporting KC got (and there’s no polite way to say this) beat down in Monterrey last night, virtually ending MLS’ hopes of capturing the CCL title.
The Caps play Friday, meaning we’re all free to watch what should be a titanic MLS clash (or as titanic as a match can be in April) between DC and LAFC on Saturday.
The Chicago Fire could be about to escape one of the worst stadium deals in US sporting history (and pickup a re-brand in the process).
All you Americans who (like me) love and cherish ESPN+ will now be able to watch virtually every U.S. Open Cup match. My already dwindling social life has taken a big blow.
Have a great weekend and I hope to see all of you at the match tonight! ... u