St. Thomas and St. John’s football teams took Allianz Field’s newly sodded grass out for a spin Saturday afternoon, one day before Minnesota United plays its first MLS playoff game on it.
Some players brought an assortment of cleats, not sure which might be best on a field troubled this season by drainage issues and grass damage. United fixed the underground drainage system and removed all the original grass after its last regular-season home game three weeks ago. It replaced it with new grass grown by a Wisconsin sod farm.
St. John’s senior offensive lineman Ben Bartch wore shoes for the new grass Saturday he normally wouldn’t on artificial turf.
“It was pretty loose, we kind of tore it up,” Bartch said. “We all took different measures and brought extra cleats in case we didn’t like the way it felt.”
Workers removed Allianz Field’s original grass immediately after United’s final regular-season home game Sept. 29 and laid new grass from that Wisconsin farm that grew grass for United’s National Sports Center training facility.
Late in the Johnnies’ 38-20 victory, the stadium’s public-address announcer told the crowd of 19,508 to stay off the field at game’s end.
St. John’s junior linebacker Danny Pietruszewski said he didn’t make plays he should have Saturday, partly because of the field’s condition.
“I’ll be honest, I slipped up on a few of them,” he said. “I should have made more plays, a few more tackles that I missed because of my footing, but there’s no excuse for that.”
He called the field “rough in some parts” while St. Thomas senior running back Josh Parks called it “great” and said, “I don’t think it affected the game whatsoever.”
Tommies quarterback Tommy Dolan admitted he “slipped a little” while throwing a 6-yard pass that opened the game’s scoring.
“I noticed a couple spots were a little beat up,” Dolan said, “but overall, it was pretty good.”
United sporting director Manny Lagos checked the grass during the week and coach Adrian Heath said he intended to do the same, but was updated by texted photos instead.
“The groundsman probably is fed up getting my texts every 20 minutes,” Heath said
Heath called the new grass “a lot better than was expected” from the reports he had received.
“I’m not too worried about the field because they’re going to have to play on it as well,” United striker Mason Toye said. “If we can think less about the field and more about our jobs, that will help us out a lot.”
In 2017, opposing stars loathed TCF Bank Stadium’s artificial turf. Early that first Loons’ season, one Galaxy player called the Loons’ temporary home the league’s worst field after a teammate broke his leg during a game. On Allianz Field’s grass in April, Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s slide tore up a chunk of turf, which the annoyed star retrieved and threw back toward the hole it left behind.
“Ideal, is it ideal?” Heath asked. “It’s not ideal. We know that, but it’s something that we’ve gone down the road on and we just have to get on with it. The one thing I’m not going to do is use it as an excuse. It’s going to be the same for both teams. We haven’t played on it. They haven’t played on it. It is what it is, so let’s get on with it.”