With the clock ticking toward three weekends hence when Allianz Field could host a St. Thomas-St. John’s college football game and a Minnesota United home playoff game, the new soccer-specific stadium’s grass field will be replaced starting immediately after Sunday night’s last home game.
Pooling water and blockages in the stadium’s extensive underground drainage system identified beginning in July damaged grass roots in certain parts of the field, United CEO Chris Wright said Sunday.
After extensive research, Wright said a decision was made to replace the field with grass from a Wisconsin sod farm, the same farm and product that is at the team’s Blaine training facility.
Prep work was expected to start after Sunday’s game at LAFC ended. The current grass will be harvested Monday and Tuesday, the field leveled Wednesday and new sod laid Thursday.
Wright said the team started a process in July that included consulting NFL and MLS teams about whether to reclaim the damaged areas or replace the entire field.
He also said consultants have assured a three-week break between Sunday’s game and the college football game as well as a possible United playoff game is enough time to replace the field and have it playable by October’s third weekend.
United had a chance to clinch a first-round playoff game by beating LAFC Sunday night.
“There should be no problems having a really terrific surface for both games,” Wright said. “What is almost guaranteed is our team will play on a better surface if we do play at home rather than what they’re playing on right now, which is very, very important to us.”
Wright said United reached an agreement with St. Thomas and St. John’s to play an Oct. 19 game at Allianz Field more than a year ago, before MLS dramatically changed its playoff schedule and format and shortened its regular season’s length.
“At that point, we never realized the type of conflict it’d be that has come about,” Wright said.
He said the football game will be played at 1 p.m. that Saturday, as scheduled. MLS first-round playoff games are scheduled for Oct. 19 and 20.
He also said the team is working through liability issues with stadium contract Mortenson and third-party vendors. When asked about a potential safety issue for players, Wright said, “We don’t believe there are really any safety issues. We really don’t.”
Players’ cleats and slides tore up divots on the field starting with the home opener in April. L.A. Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic dug up a big divot and tossed it back toward the hole he created in a game later that month. The 18-yard box around the south end goal was re-sodded in late summer before the decision was made to replace the field this week.
Out, and in
Rookie left back Chase Gasper was suspended for Sunday’s game — his second suspension this month — for collecting two yellow cards late in Wednesday’s victory over Sporting Kansas City that became a red card.
Veteran Wilfried Moimbé-Tahrat started in his place and veteran Lawrence Olum started in midfield for resting Ozzie Alonso, who played all 90 minutes Wednesday. Veteran striker Angelo Rodriguez went back in the top 18, but Thomas Chacon again didn’t.