L.A. Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic slid on Allianz Field’s new grass field in second half against Minnesota United on Wednesday, digging up a chunk of turf that he then threw back in pieces toward the hole created.
Afterward, L.A. goalkeeper David Bingham called the field condition “terrible” and one of the worst grass fields his team has played on in a long time.
United defender Brent Kallman said: “The ground is still soft. The roots need to grow deeper, and it just takes time. It was better than the first game, but it’s still going to be a bit of a process.”
Some players wear metal cleats on soft ground to minimize slippage. Kallman noted players must work harder to move around in such conditions.
The grass was grown in Colorado and trucked to Minnesota in October to be installed at Allianz Field. United invested in a sophisticated underground system that kept the grass heated until December and awakened it as March approached.
Asked if the grass has been an issue the first two home games, United coach Adrian Heath said: “It has, but there’s nothing we can do. We know that. Obviously, the weather hasn’t helped.”
New-fallen snow had to be cleared from the field in the days before the April 13 home opener. Then came a second-half downpour during Wednesday’s game.
“It’s spongy at this moment in time,” Heath said. “It needs up to firm up, but hopefully with the weather changing slowly, we can get it to where it wants to be because I know the club has spent an awful lot of money putting it together.”
Major League Soccer is headed toward 30 teams, two more than it previously targeted. Two expansion teams will follow forthcoming franchises in Nashville, Miami and Austin, Texas.
Each will pay $200 million, double what Minnesota United paid in 2015. Sacramento and St. Louis appear next in line.
The game and the league are growing, enough that MLS Commissioner Don Garber is thinking 19,400-seat Allianz Field needs more.
“We’re riding this wave of momentum, next-generation professional soccer in North America,” Garber said. “I don’t think there’s any end to what this sport can be. I wish this stadium wasn’t 19,000. I wish it was 27,000 because I think at some point we will be thinking how do you make the stadium bigger. And I think we’ll be dealing with that in a number of different markets.”